I graduated with a BSc in Zoology and Animal Physiology from the University of East Anglia in 1979. After 3 years working for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food inspecting export grain for insect infestation, I began my research career with a PhD position in the Department of Physiology, King’s College London with Dr David A Tonge. This initiated my research interest studying how appropriate nerve-muscle connections are made and then adapted to their diverse functions.
I gained my PhD in 1986, investigating the regeneration of nerve-muscle connections. Subsequent postdoctoral work investigated other aspects of neuromuscular function. First, with Prof Glen Cottrell in St Andrews, investigating how simple (acetylcholine) and complex (neuropeptides) molecules, called 'neurotransmitters', are used simultaneously for neuromuscular signalling.
Later, I worked in the Department of Physiology, University of Bristol with Dr Tony Ridge, studying the developmental pruning of nerve-muscle connections. This led to a major 2-year period at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado, USA. Here, with Dr Bill Betz, we developed technique for using FM1-43 and related dyes for fluorescent studies of the kinetics and distribution of the tiny neurotrnamsitter packets (vesicles) during activity in living nerve terminals.
Between 1991 and 1994, I worked with Prof Clarke Slater in the Muscular Dystrophy Group Research Laboratories, Newcastle General Hospital investigating the role of muscular dystrophy-related structural proteins in building nerve-muscle specialisations. I was appointed to a Lectureship in Biomedical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, in 1994 and promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2001.