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Prof Stephen Price
Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, UCL
Gower Street
  • 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

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.

The Price lab is relatively small with five members, each person with their own defined project related to specificity of cell communication in the brainstem and spinal cord.

Teaching Summary

I am the Associate Director (Education) for the Division of Biosciences and Faculty of Life Sciences Tutor for Masters degrees. The Division of Biosciences is the largest academic department at UCL with over 170 research groups providing education to over 1600 undergraduate students, 125 Masters students and over 300 PhD students.

In these roles, I am responsible to the Director of Division for all education activities, including strategic oversight of their provision and the student experience. I am also responsible for the pastoral and academic care of all MSc students in the faculty of Life Sciences (over 250 students) and the strategic direction of our Masters degrees (currently 12 degrees with more in the pipeline). I also lecture and lead small group teaching sessions at PhD, Masters- and Undergraduate-level. I teach developmental biology from the first year onwards, including to medical students.

In addition to my interests in research in developmental biology, I am also keen to explore how students learn. To that end, I am also engaged in research into teaching- particularly how students learn molecular biosciences and how we can make this learning more efficient!

Academic Background
1997 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Molecular Biology University of Cambridge
1992 BA Bachelor of Arts – Natural Science Tripos: Chemistry University of Cambridge
04-0 CLTHE_1 Certificate in Learning and Teaching in HE Part 1 – Academic studies in Higher Education University College London
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