• Question: Hi, i am curious about what inspired you to become a biologist and how did to effect your life and time

    Asked by anon-221288 on 28 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Marianne King

      Marianne King answered on 28 Jun 2019:

      I’d always found the human body interesting, but I suppose my grandmother being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s was what pushed me to want to do research because I wanted to help others. Spending so long in education can be hard when you see your friends getting ‘proper’ jobs but I really try not to compare myself to others! It can be time consuming but I really enjoy it (mostly) so I don’t mind. 🙂

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 28 Jun 2019:

      This has definitely evolved over time – certainly to start with I knew I wanted to be able to help patients and that I was passionate about understanding the similarities and differences between different animal species (including humans) – this is what biased me towards veterinary medicine and science. When I was on work experience placements for vet school I saw several patients with diseases that affected the nervous system (for example, brain tumours, epilepsy that was poorly responsive to drugs, and grass sickness in horses – a nasty neurodegenerative disorder that affects the ‘fight or flight’ part of the nervous system and makes it impossible for horses to eat or digest food). For most of these patients, we had little to offer other than supportive care and/or euthanasia, and whilst we were able to end suffering, I wanted to understand these diseases better so we could provide a ‘third option’ in the way of treatment. The frustration of training in neurology and neurosurgery and not being able to offer really effective treatments for some patients drove me back into the lab. My PhD was based on using stem cells to grow human brain cells and to understand how cooling could protect them from injury ‘in a dish’ – and some of the molecular pathways that enable this might be very useful for discovering new treatments for many other brain disorders. It was also clear that many of the brain problems I had seen in my patients were very similar to those seen in humans (including members of my own family) and so I felt that if I invested time in basic research I would have a chance to discover new disease mechanisms (and ultimately treatment strategies) that would help both humans and animals. Increasingly, we are recognising that the circadian system (‘our biological clock’) becomes disrupted in many brain disorders, and so understanding how this happens may lead to novel ways of developing or applying treatments. This is where my research is focused now.