ForeFront member Julia Forkgen has been awarded the 2021 University Medal. The University Medal is the most distinguished academic award to be bestowed on an undergraduate student, and is awarded to students who demonstrate exceptional achievement throughout the entirety of their degree. Julia completed a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) in 2020 majoring in Neuroscience, Molecular Biology and Genetics. In 2021 she completed her Honours degree under the supervision of Professor Kay Double and Dr Benjamin Rowlands in the Neurodegeneration Laboratory, at the Brain and Mind Centre.

Julia’s Honours project focused on Parkinson’s disease, and investigated a novel mechanism leading to death of dopamine neurons: the misfolding of copper-dependent enzyme superoxide-dismutase-1 (SOD1). Julia characterised a novel mouse model recently developed to study the effect of elevated SOD1 protein levels in conditions of copper deficiency. This model represents a new tool for understanding potential causes of cell death in Parkinson’s disease, and for testing novel therapeutic treatments.