Mentor: Dr. Rosanna Olsen
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a devastating and costly neurodegenerative illness. A major barrier to the discovery of new treatments is that we currently lack measures that can detect AD prior to symptom onset. Early and effective diagnosis of AD provides a critical opportunity for patients to seek out treatments as soon as possible and for their families to plan for the future. Accordingly, the goal of our proposed research is to identify non-invasive eye-tracking and neuroimaging tests that can be used as the earliest and most sensitive measures of dementia due to AD. This research will allow scientists and clinicians to make better and earlier predictions about who will develop AD. Moreover, the non-invasive and cost-effective brain and eye-tracking tools developed by this research can be used in ongoing and future collaborations to evaluate treatment efficacy in clinical trials of AD interventions.
During the Summer Research Opportunity Programme (SROP), the selected student will assist with data collection and analysis. The student will be actively involved in contacting potential participants for our neuroimaging and eye-tracking studies, perform screening questionnaires, and scheduling the participant’s appointments in the laboratory. Note that if pandemic-related restrictions are in place during the summer of 2021, some of this research will be adapted into online and telephone research studies. The SROP student will also attend weekly lab meetings and journal clubs, so that they will learn about related scientific topics.
I am a passionate advocate for promoting a more diverse and inclusive academic environment within my own laboratory and at the University of Toronto. I strongly believe that mentorship of students from underrepresented groups at the undergraduate level is a critical “ingredient” for achieving a more welcome, supportive environment for members of groups who have not traditionally participated in academic research. In my laboratory, we have weekly lab meetings during which a lab member presents research or reviews a relevant scientific article. We also occasionally have guest speakers from other laboratories or joint lab meetings with other labs. Lab meetings would provide the SROP student with a chance to learn about scientific communication as well as networking opportunities. In addition to lab meetings, I also make efforts to share my own personal experiences (both successes and failures) to provide a balanced perspective on being a woman in science.