Shake It Up has a clear mission; to find the cure for Parkinson’s. To achieve this we invest in Australia’s leading Parkinson’s research.We are fortunate to have a dedicated family of supporters who so generously donate and/or fundraise enabling us to continue this quest.
Today in a new series titled ‘Under the Microscope’, we are excited to share the personal stories of the people undertaking this research.
This week, we feature Dr Richard Gordon who is currently working on a project at The University of Queensland funded by Shake It Up and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
1. Where did you commence your research journey and where you are currently based.
My research journey started at Iowa State University in the USA when I started my PhD. My doctoral research covered various aspects of Parkinson’s disease including the role of pesticides and heavy metal exposure as causative factors of the disease and also the role of brain inflammation in driving disease progression. In 2012, I moved to The University of Queensland where I continue to work on Parkinson’s disease with research collaborations in both Australia and the USA.
2. Describe yourself in five words
Optimistic, motivated, proactive, curious and adventurous.
3. Who do you admire?
Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela.
4. When did you know you wanted to be involved in medical research?
The final year of my undergraduate studies involved undertaking a research component which I really enjoyed and that was when I decided on starting a medical research career.
5. Why Parkinson’s?
While growing up, I was always fascinated by Neuroscience and how complex and intricate brain function is. I joined a Parkinson’s research lab for my PhD because it allowed me to do Neuroscience research in the context of a debilitating brain disease for which there is an urgent medical need to find a treatment and a cure.
6. What is your current research focussed on?
My current research is focussed on understanding the role of brain inflammation in Parkinson’s disease. There is increasing evidence that the brain inflammation which occurs during the early stages of the disease contributes to its progression. Therefore, our hope is that an increased understanding of this process would lead to new approaches to slow or halt disease progression in Parkinson’s. We are also currently testing several small molecule inhibitors of brain inflammation to determine if they are effective in animal models of the disease.
7. The hardest things about being a scientist is:
The constant need to secure research grants in an environment where budget cuts to federal research funding make it increasingly difficult for new and emerging researchers to become established in this field.
8. Why is medical research so important?
The medical research that we undertake in the lab today is the foundation for medical breakthroughs, drugs and therapies that will be used in the clinics in the future. The need for more medical research is particularly urgent in the case of complex diseases like Parkinson’s for which we do not yet know much about what the causes are.
9. What do you enjoy doing when you are not in a lab?
I enjoy traveling, the outdoors as well as volunteering at my church and my local community when I get time.