Alumni Services

Michael Cousin

Professor Cousin researches brain function and is directing research at the Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre at the University.

Name Michael Cousin
Degree Course Biological Sciences (Biochemistry Hons I)
Year of Graduation 1991
Michael Cousin

Your time at the University

I always had the desire to study Biochemistry, since somewhat naively I assumed that it would be a mix of my favourite two subjects at school, biology and chemistry. I came to the open day at Edinburgh and really liked what I saw in terms of the teaching, the campus and the city itself.

It was a fairly daunting beginning doing first year Biology, with greater than 300 students packed into lecture theatres and huge teaching practical classes. However by the final year there were only 25 of us doing Biochemistry Honours and we had a great time both in class and socially. Great credit must go to the organiser at the time Prof. Graeme Pettigrew, with whom we shared many a beer with at the Bristo Bar after our regular Wednesday night journal club!

Of course University is not all about study and being a keen sportsman I found the wealth of facilities and opportunities at the University hugely appealing as a prospective student. I played four years for the University rugby club, representing Scottish Universities in the last two years. At the end of my third year we toured Zimbabwe, which was an incredible experience. We watched sunrise at Victoria Falls and travelled through the country in a large jeep with us all taking turns on the roof to take in the amazing scenery.

One of my greatest pleasures at Edinburgh was being part of a team of students of all roughly the same age and sharing wins, losses and great nights out together.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

After graduating I did a PhD at the University of Dundee in the highly ranked Department of Biochemistry. This was where my current interest in brain communication was stimulated, in the laboratory of Prof. David Nicholls.

After continuing my postdoctoral training in Dundee I realised that I needed to broaden my outlook both scientifically and personally, so I applied for research fellowships to travel to Sydney, Australia to be trained a range of biochemical techniques in the lab of Prof. Phillip Robinson. This also allowed me the opportunity to direct my own programme of research and convinced me that I wanted to be a career research scientist.

I always wanted to return to Edinburgh one day to lead my own research group to perform experiments that I felt were both important and ultimately beneficial for human health

Mike Cousin

I always wanted to return to Edinburgh one day to lead my own research group to perform experiments that I felt were both important and ultimately beneficial for human health. I was very honoured to be awarded a lectureship in Biomedical Sciences in 2000 along with a number of other excellent scientists.

Since then I have established a research portfolio that has the central theme of understanding how brain cells adapt their methods of communication to ensure that information is always delivered quickly and accurately. When this goes wrong neuronal disorders such as epilepsy, intellectual disability and schizophrenia can be the result, and in some cases neurodegenerative disease, since as Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s Disease.

The work of my lab has been recognized in a Prize Lectureship from the International Society for Neurochemistry in 2007 and in multiple invitations to speak at related conferences all over the globe.

Working within The University of Edinburgh has given both me and my research group huge opportunities that would not have been available at other institutes.

For example, my group are part of a number of highly active and world-class research centres across the University, including the Centre for Brain Development and Repair in Bangalore, India.

In addition, I am currently directing the basic research programme for the Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre here in Edinburgh which investigates both the causes and consequences of epilepsy, and I am currently a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Epilepsy Research UK.

Alumni wisdom

Always make the most of what the whole University experience has to offer, it is so much more than just lectures and exams.