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Prof Stephen Price
Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, UCL
Gower Street
Prof Stephen Price profile picture
  • Professor of Developmental Neurobiology
  • Cell & Developmental Biology
  • Div of Biosciences
  • Faculty of Life Sciences

Stephen Price was brought up in the North West of England and attended a local comprehensive school. From there, he read Natural Sciences at Cambridge University and then studied for his PhD at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. His PhD was concerned with the specificity of interaction between proteins of the spliceosome and spliceosomal RNAs. He solved this problem by studying the X-ray structure of a complex of two proteins bound to a short fragment of RNA, one of the first ever protein-RNA ternary complex structures. From Cambridge, he moved to Columbia University in New York as a postdoctoral fellow to work with Professor Thomas Jessell on the development of the Nervous System. There, he studied the mechanisms that drive specificity in cell to cell interaction of motor neurons in the spinal cord. This main theme of his research has driven his interests with his own group at UCL.

Research Summary

There are two main themes to my research; one on Developmental Neurobiology and a second on Education Research, in collaboration with colleagues from the UCL Institute of Education.

Most neural circuits rely on the precision with which connections between different neurons occur, in addition to very subtle changes in the physiology of the individual neurons that affect the conditions in which they will fire action potentials. Developmental Neurobiology can make a huge contribution to understanding the functioning of the nervous system through investigation of how the molecular anatomy of circuits within the brain are set up.

We study the effects of developmental process including signalling between cells through secreted factors and cell-cell adhesion on the formation and function of two types of circuit found within the brain stem: those circuits involving cranial motor neurons and the auditory circuitry that integrates information from the two ears.

The auditory circuit that we are studying helps to locate sound sources in space and illustrates beautifully how development is instrumental in shaping function. A major cue for an animal to locate sound sources compares the arrival time of the sound at the two ears. The time difference in sound reaching each ear, termed interaural time difference (ITD), varies from zero (sound directly ahead) to approximately 300 microseconds (depending on the size of head). The circuit operates as an 'AND' logical gate where synaptic input from the ear closest to the sound sets up a map of space along an array of neurons which is compared to synaptic input from the ear furthest away from the sound. This identifies the location of sound in a subset of neurons along this array through dendritic integration to detect temporal coincidence of the two inputs. This calculation is performed at each characteristic frequency of sound using different arrays of neurons that are juxtaposed to form a sheet of cells in the brain stem.

Our research on Education is based around giving school and university students an authentic science research experience. To address this, we are studying how students engage with contemporary Bioscience research, particularly through discussion with Biology researchers and in an laboratory environment. Our findings to date have uncovered key aspects needed for fruitful and impactful discussions with year 12 school pupils. Of particular interest is that students from less advantaged backgrounds gain most from these discussions. We are currently investigating whether our findings could inform widening participation and outreach activities for the Division of Biosciences and other Russell Group Universities.

Teaching Summary

I lecture and lead small group teaching sessions at PhD, Masters- and Undergraduate-level. I teach Histology, Developmental and Cell Biology from the first year onwards, including to medical students. I am a stream tutor for Stem Cell and Developmental Biology for the MRes Biosciences, year 3 tutor for the BSc and MSci Neuroscience degrees and also lead for a research project module on Education Research for the BSc Biomedical Sciences.

Academic Background
1997   Doctor of Philosophy University of Cambridge
1992   Bachelor of Arts University of Cambridge
    Certificate in Learning and Teaching in HE Part 1 University College London
    ATQ01 - Successfully completed an institutional provision in teaching in the HE sector  
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University College London - Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT Tel:+44 (0)20 7679 2000

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