A guest speaker at my high-school science fair put me onto my career path. She was a woman whose son had multiple sclerosis and she spoke about her role as a caregiver. I was moved by how much research she had done to provide the best possible care for her son. Her passion was catching. She inspired me to pursue a career in medical research and to study diseases that affect the central nervous system.
In university, I learned about the brain and human behaviour. I gravitated towards courses on abnormal psychology. After a while, most of the books on my bedside table were about cognitive neuroscience because I wanted to know if, and how, we can influence learning and memory.
Towards the end of my undergraduate studies, I met my supervisor Howard Mount. He gave a very interesting talk on the commonalities between Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. I found it interesting that many people with Parkinson’s also have dementia, but that it is different from the dementia in those with Alzheimer’s. I joined his laboratory to study how these neurodegenerative processes affect behaviour. My graduate work has helped identity neurochemical changes in the early stages of dysfunction in a genetically engineered mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.
Our aging baby boomers means the need to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease is urgent. As a young person researching a disease that predominantly afflicts the elderly, I have had many opportunities to present my research and influence the next generation of neuroscientists, caregivers and those at risk of dementia. It is this aspect of my PhD training that brings me joy. I want to continue investigating the molecular mechanisms that trigger dementia, with a focus on therapeutic interventions.
Read more about Beverly Francis and other TANZ researchers on our website