Staff highlight: Jeff LeDue

This story was written as part of the Djavid Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health 2019/2020 annual report. You can read the full report here. 

Jeff LeDue wears many “hats” at UBC— he’s a research associate, coordinator of the UBC Dynamic Brain Circuits in Health and Disease Research Excellence Cluster and managing director of the NeuroImaging and NeuroComputation Centre (NINC), a shared research platform at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.

Upon joining UBC in 2010, LeDue was interested in getting a neurosciencebased imaging and computation facility started at UBC. This type of resource was essential in his previous role at UC Berkeley and he began to advocate for the creation of such a facility. When the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health opened its doors in 2014, LeDue got to work on securing and renovating an appropriate space. By 2015, with support from Drs. Tim Murphy and Kurt Haas, the NINC was fully functioning and is now considered a core facility of the Centre.

“Jeff is an amazing resource not only for our Centre, but for the larger neuroscience community,” says Dr. Murphy. “He truly cares about the success of the Centre, but also advancing our field through training and sharing of the unique resources that we can now generate thanks to him. I cannot imagine where we would be without this outstanding colleague who feeds off helping others, but also pushes the intellectual envelope of today’s global neuroscience.”

LeDue also coordinates the Dynamic Brain Circuits in Health and Disease Research Excellence Cluster, which is supported by the Office of the Provost and VicePresident, Academic and the Vice-President, Research and Innovation. The Cluster is led by Dr. Tim Murphy with the goal of accelerating innovation with open science and open data and aiding both clinicians and basic scientists in translating discoveries.

Over the past several years, LeDue has found great success in merging his roles and finding creative ways of being involved in research. Four years ago, he and Dr. Murphy spearheaded the launch of Databinge— an opportunity for students and faculty to drop into the NINC with active research problems, or any project they are working on, and present it to others to troubleshoot issues with data or code, or to bounce ideas off of colleagues.

“Databinge was seen as an opportunity to build community around the NINC and get people talking about methods at an early point in their projects,” says LeDue. “This embodies the principles of open science, where you talk about the work you’re doing very early on in the process, embrace new methods and make sure people are being supported in their efforts.”

LeDue works with students and faculty each week to help them troubleshoot any challenges they’re having with projects. When COVID-19 struck, Databinge quickly pivoted online and is now offered via Slack and Zoom.

“Now that we’re online, Databinge is live 24/7 which means people are asking questions all the time, they’re changing code, they’re connecting with their peers; there’s just a lot of continuous activity which is great,” says LeDue. “Plus, we’ve been able to connect with more people because meeting at one time and place is no longer a barrier.”

Another highlight of LeDue’s time at UBC was back in 2017, when he helped introduce the use of expansion microscopy at the Centre. It started as an expansion microscopy workshop partnering with the NeuroFutures2017 conference in the NINC and attracted over 70 attendees. With the help of trainees, he was able to launch a step-by-step demo and analysis package and encourage other labs at the Centre to start using this technique.

“Expansion microscopy has revolutionized the study of synaptic connections in brain circuits, allowing individual synapses in dense circuits to be resolved and their molecular compositions mapped,” says faculty member Dr. Ann Marie Craig. “Jeff LeDue was instrumental in establishing expansion microscopy at UBC, from helping coordinate the first workshop to printing gelation and imaging chambers, testing various imaging systems, and organizing coding tutors to aid in analysis.”