The MS International Federation has awarded five McDonald Fellowships this year. Normally we award three such fellowships but this year, thanks to generous extra funding from the National MS Society in the USA, we have been able to fund five outstanding young researchers.

McDonald Fellowships enable the recipient to travel to an established research institution to work with leading researchers in MS for two years, with a view to returning to their own country to establish a programme of MS research that involves the application of the newly learned techniques.

This year’s McDonald Fellowships went to researchers from Bangladesh, Hungary, Iran and Yemen:

Rumaiza Hussien Alfayeai, 33, has been a neurology assistant consultant at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, since 2012. Her McDonald Fellowship will take her to Barcelona to work with Professor Xavier Montalban, studying longitudinal cortical thickness changes in patients with clinically isolated syndromes. She says: “Getting the McDonald Fellowship will be a turning point in my academic and career life. It will make me aware and comfortable with the new techniques, skills in research field and qualify me to be a fully privileged consultant.”

You can watch an interview with Rumaiza below.

Arman Eshaghi, 26, has been working at the MS Research Center in Tehran, Iran, since 2007. In 2011 we awarded Arman a Du Pré grant, which allowed him to start working with the Queen Square MS group. His fellowship will allow him to spend time as a PhD student at University College London, under the mentorship of Dr Olga Cicarelli. Arman says: “I’m determined to come back to my home country after my PhD and, with the support of my advisor in Tehran, to build the first imaging center in MS for patients and researchers.”

Having graduated from the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh, Jakir Hossain, 26, is now studying for his research Master’s degree at the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris. He is currently working on a research project, ‘Molecular analysis of the axon initial segment in a demyelination mouse model of MS’, under the supervision of Dr Marc Dayenne. His McDonald Fellowship will take him to the University of Nottingham in the UK, working with Dr Bruno Gran on a project called ‘How do infections activate inflammation in MS? Role of toll-like receptor 2.’

Kiandokht Keyhanian, 28, recently graduated from the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran, a country where the incidence of MS seems to be increasing. Her work on pregnancy and MS was presented at the American Academy of Neurology Congress and then published in European Neurology. Thanks to a McDonald Fellowship, Kiandokht will be working with Dr Tanuja Chitnis at Harvard University in the USA, studying adipokine effects on inflammatory cell gene expression in pediatric MS patients. She says: “I strongly believe that transferring the knowledge and research expertise to my country would be an important step in fighting MS in Iran.”

Miklos Palotai, 27, graduated in 2012 and then worked as a research fellow at the University of Szeged in Hungary. He currently holds a fellowship at Harvard Medical School, where he is studying neuroimaging of MS and neuromyelitis optica. The McDonald Fellowship will enable him to continue this research, working with Dr Charles Guttman, looking at the role of different parts of the brain in fatigue. He plans to take his experiences and skills in advanced imaging techniques back to Hungary, to train others and continue working in research.

He says: “As a prospective teacher of academic medicine, I will be enabled to teach my Hungarian colleagues how to use and implement the most advanced neuroimaging methods into their research.”

Find out how to apply for a McDonald Fellowship