Better living through neuroinformatics: Helena Ledmyr joins RealScientists

Our curator this coming week is Helena Ledmyr, Development Officer at the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility, based at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. The aim of neuroinformatics is to integrate information across many different disciplines of neuroscience – cellular, molecular, genetic and so on – to help better understand the brain and treat disease. We’ll let Helena tell us a little about herself:

helenaI’m a molecular biologist with a PhD in genetics. Or actually, cardiovascular medicine, but it always felt like I learned more genetics than medicine as a PhD student. My project focused on polymorphisms in a gene that is involved with lipid metabolism, and their effect on cardiovascular medicine. After doing a post-doc on gene therapy (also applied on cardiovascular disease), I started working with science administration and communication at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. I enjoyed working at the academy; some of the highlights include the teacher’s prize, the energy committee and being part of the start-up of the Young Academy. The RSAS is also where I got involved with the Molecular Frontiers Foundation, which aims to make the molecular sciences more appealing to the public, especially kids. I’m still volunteering for MFF, which is a lot of fun.

After 3 years at the academy I was recruited to the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF), where I work with development and outreach. INCF coordinates informatics infrastructure for neuroscience data integration, and manages scientific programs to develop standards for data sharing, analysis, modeling and simulation.


How did you end up in science?

My grandpa. And dinosaurs.

My grandpa because he taught me about everyday science – plant physiology (you have to help me pollinate the plum tree so we get plums this year, the bees are taking detours around it!), herpetology (don’t worry, that snake is not poisonous), physics (the center of gravity is too high, you have to stack the wood differently), and nutrition (you don’t have to chew ice cream! this is taking too long!). He also saved his popular science magazines for my visits, so there would always be a whole stack of them for me to read.

Dinosaurs because the Stockholm University catalog actually mentioned Jurassic Park in the description of the molecular biology program. So I had to do it.

What influenced you to pursue genetics?

Not the smell in the Drosophila incubator, that’s for sure. But I enjoyed working with DNA as an undergrad, and testing & perfecting genetic methods as a grad student was one of my favorite things to do. I did a lot of sub-cloning (is it still called that?) and the whole cut & paste concept that’s possible with DNA always fascinated me.

How did you get involved in outreach?

At the RSAS, working with scientific symposia and scientific prizes. I enjoy outreach because I get to talk about things I’m passionate about, and it’s also an outlet for my creative side (doing layout of posters, brochures etc.).


As many as I can! I make jewelry, I crochet, I bake, I run, I read a lot of books, I watch a lot of scifi, I go to concerts…

Helena usually tweets at @Helena_LB, and for Molecular Frontiers at @molfrontiers. But for this week, she’s tweeting for us. Welcome, Helena!

More on neuroinformatics and what the INCF are about

More on Molecular Frontiers


James is a recovering scientist and escaped postdoc who works in research management at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He's now retired from active @RealScientists duty, after serving from the project's beginnings in 2013 through to mid 2015. When not managing research, surviving #PlanetParenthood or pretending not to be an expat Australian in the Deep South of NZ, he tweets @theotherdrsmith.

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