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York interns ‘discipline-hop’ to tackle chronic diseases and disorders

Posted on 31 March 2014

Three recent PhD graduates are ‘discipline-hopping’ at the University of York under an innovative internship scheme which allows them to gain new skills and explore their research interest from a new angle.

Thanks to funding from the University’s Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2), the interns are pursuing a one-year project on a chronic disease or disorder that matches their existing research interests but is based in a new academic area for them.

Dr Deborah Thorpe
Dr Deborah Thorpe has taken a leap from Medieval Literary Studies and History to Electronics. Her internship project involves researching the effect of neurological disorders on people’s handwriting today and using optical character recognition and evolutionary algorithms to identify similar features in the work of medieval scribes.

Dr Thorpe, whose work is supervised by York’s Centre for Medieval Studies and the Department of Electronics, said: “Discipline-hopping is providing me with a unique opportunity to learn new skills and explore my interest in the handwriting of medieval scribes from fascinating new angles.

“It is very exciting to have the opportunity to apply electronics methodologies to the study of historical handwriting in a way that will enhance our understanding of the expression and experience of neurodegenerative disorders."

Dr Bartek Walus
Professor Paul Kaye, Director of C2D2, said: “The scheme was inspired by the recognition that in future some of the most pressing questions in health-related research may be best solved by an interdisciplinary approach. These internships have been devised to equip up-and-coming researchers with the requisite skills to effectively pursue this approach.

“In addition, by enabling them to develop a new range of skills and knowledge to complement their expertise in their original discipline, the internships offer the post-holder a chance to construct a stronger platform from which to launch their research careers.”

Discipline-hopping intern Dr Bartek Walus has a background in musicology and film music composition. His project will use sonification design and film music techniques to communicate health risks. His research is supervised by the Department of Theatre, Film and Television and the Department of Health Sciences.

Dr Ryan West
Dr Ryan West recently completed a PhD in Biology and is moving into the Department of Psychology for his project. UsingDrosophila melanogaster as the foremost genetic model organism, his project aims to dissect the genetic causes of Parkinson’s disease and the visual defects that have been reported in patients. To do this, he will develop methods of measuring visual responses in both flies and patients, allowing for the development of improved methods for screening for Parkinson’s. 

Further details about the discipline-hopping internships and past interns can be found at

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General enquiries

  • C2D2 Administrator
    Ron Cooke Hub RCH/109
    University of York
    York YO10 5GE

    +44 (0)1904 328876