What are you researching and why does it matter to you?
My research examines the brain and how it changes as we age. As life expectancy increases, so does the likelihood that brain health will be impaired by diseases, such as dementia. Twice as many women die from dementia than men, worldwide. As a result, my research focuses on sex-differences, such as menopause and the influence this has on brain health. Understanding the causes of dementia matters to me because it combines my passion and interest in the brain with an area of research that can have a positive, widespread impact on society. Furthermore, research on women’s health has historically been understudied, particularly in neuroscience, and requires more attention.
What has been your biggest and most frustrating challenge to date?
Funnily enough, usually the frustrating challenges are the smaller ones, and the bigger challenges are part of the reason why I chose to pursue a career in academia. For example, the big challenge in my area of research can be summarised in three simple words: What causes dementia? This question makes me excited about my work and the potential impact it can have for helping millions of people around the world. It is a puzzle that connects me with others who are contributing their piece, including researchers, clinicians and the public.
Time is one of the most valuable resources needed to address this challenge, so frustrations often relate to inefficiencies that consume time unnecessarily.
Share the dream! What impact do you hope your research will have on the lives of women down the track?
The impact of dementia is often greater than those it directly affects. More often than not, when I tell people about my area of research, I hear stories about how dementia has affected their lives, from carers, family members to friends. Even those without direct experience express concern and fear when approaching later stages of their lives. Understanding the causes of dementia is an important step in addressing the significant
impact it has on all of us, including women. Doing this will allow us to better detect, diagnose and stop the disease.