My research journey has been signposted by inspirational teachers and people, fantastic friends and family, great travel opportunities, long hours, lots of highs and a few lows. To top it all off, I’ve come to the realise that I have a job that will never bore me, that continually pushes me to learn and explore, and that has provided me with a way of giving back to a community that I love.
My research has focused on understanding the role of developmental genes in directing the differentiation and characteristics of discrete regions and cell types within the adult brain. I look at how these developmental processes can be used to improve the outcomes of neurorestorative/protective therapies for Parkinson’s Disease (PD).
In December 2007, I established the ECU Parkinson’s Centre (ParkC), a collaborative group of research scientists with affiliations to the Cambridge Parkinson's Disease Research Clinic, University of Western Australia, Curtin University of Technology and the Parkinson's Association of Western Australia. The idea behind establishing ParkC was to co-ordinate a holistic approach to Parkinson’s research in WA that is directed towards curing, halting or reversing PD symptoms. I also believe that engaging with those most affected by PD (the people with the condition and their families) as well as other health professionals is imperative to improving the quality of life of people with PD.
How did I end up here? With no clear idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up, I did a general science degree, then honours and then a PhD. I was fortunate enough to have as my principal supervisors Associate Professor Melanie Ziman and Professor Lyn Beazley, who are both inspirational teachers and mentors. I was also able to complete a year of my PhD laboratory work in Cambridge, UK, working with Drs Roger Barker and Maeve Caldwell.
After the PhD was completed, I wrote an ARC grant with Mel, Lyn and Roger. As it turns out, we got it, though I’m still not quite sure how. During this time, a family friend was diagnosed with PD and a support group was established for people with early onset PD. My desire to combine laboratory work with more involvement in the PD community was the motivation to form ParkC.
I’ve chosen to pursue a research career based in Perth. I’ve been extremely lucky to have been given opportunities to create what I hope is a lasting culture of collaborative research, that inspires other researchers and students to support each other while striving for excellence.