International Day of Women and Girls in Science – introducing Paige & Serey!

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Today, Tuesday 11th February is International Day of Women and Girls in Science! Implemented by the United Nations in 2015, the day celebrates the vital role women play in Science and Technology. With this in mind, it was only fitting that today we introduced you to two young women involved in MND research in New Zealand – Paige Thomas and Serey Naidoo!

As recipients of attendance grants, Paige and Serey had the opportunity to be at the recent MND New Zealand Research Conference. We caught up with these aspiring MND Researchers to find out what they’re working on and what they valued most about attending the conference.

Paige is a PhD student at the School of Psychology, Speech and Hearing at the University of Canterbury, where she’s currently working on her thesis ‘Prolonging swallowing and quality of life in motor neurone disease through skill training’. In a nutshell, the research Paige is involved in looks at the impact of a type of skill training which uses a measure of the muscle activity of swallowing muscles as feedback.

Paige and the team are investigating whether this training protocol can help people with MND to keep eating and drinking safely for longer, improving their quality of life.

While working with a young man who had recently been diagnosed with MND, Paige had difficulty finding techniques to help the patient swallow safely. Sure that other Speech Language Therapists would be having the same problem, Paige turned to research to seek answers. Paige says: “My motivation comes from wanting to help people with MND to make the most of life and I think eating and drinking is often a big part of that. “

Because Paige’s research is focused solely on swallowing disorders, she saw the conference as an excellent way to get up to speed with the latest in other areas of MND research.
Summing up her experience at the conference, Paige says “I learned a lot about diagnosing MND and the search for a cure. My biggest takeout was that we can do it! Research in New Zealand on rare diseases is tough. Professor Orla Hardiman spoke about the incredible things that they do in Ireland despite their small population. With the MND registry now available in New Zealand I think we too can start doing big things to find out more about MND and how to fight it.”

Serey Naidoo is an early career researcher at the Motor Neuron Research Disease Research lab at the Centre for Brain Research within Auckland University. The research Serey is working on focusses on characterising disease signatures of MND in supporting cells within the central nervous system.

Serey’s path to MND research started with a desire to give back to humanity; she sums it up by saying “I wanted to be a part of something truly impactful that could make a difference. The research I’m a part of now is the most heartening work I could have hoped to be involved with”.

Deciding to attend the research conference was easy for Serey, who saw it as a vital opportunity to engage with the community and understand more about what other MND researchers are discovering. Serey says her most significant learning from the conference is that nothing works in isolation. “It’s essential to account for all facets with this disease. As researchers, we tend to focus on the aspects of the disease that are most salient and relevant to us, but there is so much more to consider.”

Serey and Paige, we look forward to seeing what the future holds for you, but today, as women in science, we applaud you!

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