Five Questions With Engineer Kayse Lee Maass

Name: Kayse Lee Maass
Job: Industrial Engineer
Country: United States
Age: 29

Kayse Lee Maass is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and leads the Operations Research and Social Justice lab at Northeastern University. She also currently holds a research appointment with the Information and Decision Engineering Program at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Maass’s research focuses on the application of operations research methodology to social justice, access, and equity issues within human trafficking, mental health, housing, and supply chain contexts. Her work is supported by multiple National Science Foundation grants, centers interdisciplinary survivor-informed expertise, and has been used to inform policy and operational decisions at the local, national, and international levels. A recipient of multiple awards, she currently serves as the INFORMS Section on Location Analysis Secretary and is a member of the H.E.A.L. Trafficking Research Committee. Find her on TwitterLinkedIn, and her website

On why she chose to study engineering:

“When I was growing up, I was interested in a lot of social justice types of topics, but I also really loved math. I knew I wanted to do something with applied math. In college, I studied math and physics [I had some physics in high school and liked it], but it wasn’t quite what I wanted. I wanted to tie in social justice with math, but I didn’t know how to do that until I took an operations research course in my senior year. That’s when I learned about the field that I’m in, which is industrial engineering.

I like to explain Industrial Engineering as the mathematics of decision making where we can look at things from a systems perspective. It’s nice because anything—any application or any topic that you think of—involves decision making. However, it wasn’t until I was pursuing a PhD in Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) from the University of Michigan that my mentors provided me with space and encouragement to explore how industrial engineering and social justice applications, like human trafficking, intertwined.”

On her self-care practices for a healthy lifestyle:

“I’ve been thinking about this [self-care] a lot lately. I read somewhere that when we talk about self-care, what we often need is community care. There are things I personally need to do for self-care, but we also need to make sure we design our systems and communities around making sure people have space to have healthy lifestyles.

As a professor, I work with a lot of students interested in pursuing a PhD or a career as a professor. I know that academia gives this idea that everyone’s always working, rarely has time for fun, and it’s very intense [which it is]. But, that’s not true for everyone in academia, and the assumption that it is true is one of the major barriers to creating an inclusive, diverse academy. I want students interested in academia to know that the field can be welcoming to people with diverse family needs or diverse health needs with different accessibility levels – but to do this I have to help create an academic environment where people know that flexibility and accessibility are the norm. For example, I try to be intentional about encouraging students to step away from their work to take time for their own self-care and relaxation, to be with family, and to generally just not work when they need to not work. This involves setting boundaries between work and other areas of your life and creating an environment where stepping away and having other interests is normal. The workplace can do a better job at normalizing healthy living. In fact, stepping away from your work to focus on other parts of your life is healthy and can lead to you being more engaged and productive once you are back at work!

In my personal life, I try to exercise as much as I can with realistic expectations. If I don’t reach my goal on a day, then self-care for me means I have to avoid being hard on myself for missing the goal. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to listen to my body a lot more, including understanding when I’m starting to get stressed or anxious, and when what my body really needs is to rest rather than move.

Learn more on her website.

On how engineers can help fix healthcare:

“A lot of people in our field also look at healthcare applications. Sometimes it’s looking at telehealth options for people who either cannot drive anymore or live in rural populations. Industrial engineering can help answer questions such as: How can these populations have better access to a healthy lifestyle and check-ins? There are also people in our field who use industrial engineering to determine how often people should get screened for different conditions as they get older. If people were screened all the time, that would put a lot of time and financial burden on patients and they probably would not go to their screening. But if patients are not screened frequently enough, then they might have an undetected medical condition that can progress or get worse over time with limited treatment options available in the future.”

On how she uses data to fight human trafficking:

“There are researchers in other fields that use quantitative data to get insights into what human trafficking. Statisticians are working on better ways to determine the prevalence of human trafficking; economists create economic models to understand ways to reduce the profitability of exploiting people by using trafficked labor; there are quantitative social scientists researching, among other things, ways in which systems of poverty, racism, and homelessness intersect with human trafficking.  But, in industrial engineering, there really hasn’t been much prior work focused on data and mathematical, systems-based models to provide decision support to anti-human trafficking stakeholders. For example, there’s often not enough of a budget for anti-human trafficking agencies or non-profits to adequately address the needs of trafficking victims and survivors. They don’t have enough resources. They already have a lot of things they need to do. Industrial engineering is great for those kinds of applications because we can help figure out, “How do I make the most efficient use of my resources?” For example, in some of our current work, we focus on how to increase access to shelters and other services for human trafficking survivors. After people come out of their trafficking experience, they need safe and stable housing options, they need access to food and medical care and many additional things, but those supports currently are not adequately available throughout the world, including the United States.

Some of our work is focusing on determining how to best increase access to shelter and other services if an organization/government has a limited budget to spend. We work with human trafficking survivors to determine what they want and need after they leave their trafficking experience. From this we can answer questions such as: Where should you build these additional shelters? What types of services should each shelter offer? How can the shelters best coordinate with other community support partners? In short, one of the things we as industrial engineers can do is help determine how to most efficiently use your resources to meet your goals.

This a similar problem to something like what any other company would do when they are going to create a new warehouse or storefront. They use these kinds of models to say, “Where am I going to open my next warehouse?” or “Where am I going to open my new store?” And we’re just doing it in a different application while also considering things that aren’t focused primarily on demand and profit. Instead we incorporate more human components as well.”

On her tips for combining engineering and social justice passions:

“It’s important to understand both the technical aspects of industrial engineering and the nuances of social justice issues. Sometimes what can happen is a prospective engineer who has a math/engineering background can get so excited about a social justice topic that they just jump into it without understanding all the nuances and all the complexities of that social justice topic. And while it’s good to have interest and passion in all these topics, it can also be harmful if we don’t understand how there are many different complexities and overlapping systems involved. For example, creating a new decision model that looks at stopping trafficking within a city might just push the traffickers outside of the city and into the suburbs or rural areas, causing problems for other populations or marginalized groups.

So, I think it’s important that industrial engineers come with a passion, and start working on these topics, but also come with the willingness to really get connected with people that have expertise in human trafficking.

It’s important that if you’re making decisions about trafficking-whether through industrial engineering models or policy-, you need to have trafficking victims and trafficking survivors centered at the decision table with you; they understand what the complexities of the system are, and are crucial to making sure that we aren’t having any unintended consequences.” There’s that saying, “Nothing for us without us” that is particularly helpful for us as industrial engineers to remember as we work on problems that have very real impacts on people’s lives.

I read somewhere that when we talk about self-care, what we often need is community care.

Kayse Lee Maass, PhD

Five Questions With Development Practitioner Sachi Shah

Name: Sachi Shah
Job: International Development Practitioner
Country: Malawi and India
Age: 28

Sachi Shah serves as founder/director of Truss Group, a multi-faceted social enterprise that works towards environmental sustainability and human health improvement in low-income urban areas in Malawi. She has worked as a Global Health Corps fellow and Communications and Programs Associate at the Boys & Girls Club of Newark. Previously, Sachi wrote and edited for Global Health Aging and has interned with The Rockefeller Foundation among other organizations. Find Shah on LinkedIn and Truss Group on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  

On her job description:
“I run a social enterprise in Blantyre, Malawi that focuses on waste management, and plastic recycling. We create cement substitutes from recycled plastic and focus on high-impact building projects such as disaster-resistant housing and pit latrines.

We are aiming to come up with a model for disaster resistant housing before the end of the year. We are also looking at how we can move into exploring other infrastructure that can support better health and environments beyond waste management. Outside of work, I like to watch spend time in nature and with friends, watch movies, and read.”

On why she started the Truss Group
“Truss is an extension of a project I started with high-school students four years ago in Blantyre. I believe that if spaces are freed of waste, and more sustainable construction is encouraged in urban areas, then human and environmental health will benefit exponentially. I wanted to return to do more than just volunteer work for a couple of months.”

Truss Group is 1 of the 11 ventures that will go through the first cohort of the Grow Malawi Growth Accelerator Entrepreneurship Challenge. Truss Group will grow and scale their venture through technical assistance, mentorship and funding provided by MHub, GrowthAfrica – Growth Frontiers, Accesserator and Kweza, with support from UNDP Malawi and the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

On how environmental sustainability affects human health:
“Mismanaged waste is known to breed diseases and negatively affect both human and environmental health and productivity. A healthy environment benefits everyone, especially children and vulnerable older adults who live at risk in the community.

On her experience as a fellow with Global Health Corps:
“I did communications, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and health program development for the Boys & Girls Club of Newark in the USA during my fellowship year. Global Health Corps is a wonderful world-wide community of dedicated professionals working to develop better health care for all. It is also a very supportive community invested in peer learning.”

On her proudest moment(s):
“I think my ability to be resilient and resourceful. Entrepreneurship requires you to learn this and quickly. I serve on the board of Renew’N’Able Malawi (RENAMA), a Malawian non-governmental organization (NGO) for sustainable energy and manages the Blantyre Farmer’s Market. I have also pursued research and fieldwork in various subjects including, water, sanitation, and hygiene 9(WASH), sustainable energy, child development, urban design 10 and policy, environmental policy, and movement building.”

Plastic waste is a growing and increasingly detrimental problem in Malawi. Learn more.

Better health infrastructure, decreased corruption, and waste management are top three needs in Malawi.

Sachi Shah

Five Questions With Dietitian Vanessa Rissetto

Making Kale and Lentil salad – Recipe

Name: Vanessa Rissetto
Job: Dietitian Entrepreneur
Country: United States
Age: 40

Vanessa Rissetto is on a mission to promote healthy eating. She is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist who specializes in Weight Loss, Weight Management, and Medical Nutrition Therapy as it relates to Diabetes, Cardiac Disease, and Gastrointestinal Issues. Her media appearances include Hallmark Channel, Refinery29, Men’s Health, and Chicago Tribune, among others. A chocolate lover, Rissetto lives in the USA with her husband, daughter, son, and four-legged friend Marley! Find her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and her website

On why she chose to study nutrition:

“I was always interested in science, medicine, nutrition, so I decided to take a few classes at New York University to see if it would be something I would want to pursue  – it was!”

On what she has learned about the science behind nutrition:

“That it is science-based, and not just all these gimmicks that people are putting out there. Just because you hear of one study doesn’t mean it’s gospel.  We have to find the reasons why and do a deeper dive.” 

Vanessa discusses nutrition, fad diets, exercise, and maintenance with Marci Hopkins, host of the national talk show, “Wake Up with Marci,” airing on the CBS-owned WLNY-TV New York.

On how to make healthy eating affordable:

“It can be with proper planning. Just going to the supermarket without anything in mind can cause you to overspend. Having a handle on your schedule and the things you like to eat will ensure you don’t waste.” 

On her favorite meal to make:

“I like to roast a chicken at the beginning of the week and use the remainder for a chicken salad or fajitas. It’s pretty versatile and easy to do.”

On her future goals:

“Honestly, I think if I can help people understand the science behind nutrition and get them to have a better relationship with food, then I can consider myself successful.”

Hearty meals from Vanessa’s kitchen

It isn’t just about losing weight. It’s about feeling great, re-energizing, and finding a new lust for life.

Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN

Aging in America: The Latinx Perspective

On episode nine of the LatinX Point of View Podcast hosts Gina Esquivel and Leo Scarpati discuss “Aging in America.” Gina and Leo discuss the overall issue of getting older in the United States and some of the challenges that come with aging. They share a LatinX Point of View on demographic shifts, living longer, cultural values, and quality of life choices. Common themes that emerged during the episode include social security, working class, diversity gap, health care, wealth gap, poverty, and livable community.

America is aging. The average U.S. life expectancy increased from 68 years in 1950 to 79 years in 2013. The older population is also becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Between 2014 and 2060, non-Hispanic white older adults are projected to drop by 24 percentage points, from 78.3 percent to 54.6 percent. This changing demographic creates an interesting question because America has many different cultures that have specific views on longevity and healthy aging.

American culture is youth-obsessed and considers older adults irrelevant. On the other hand, older adults are treasured in Latino culture and are likely to stay with the family as they get older. Americans create their housing options and may live in an institution and see family eventually. Given the population shift, how do we age properly in America? How can we improve the quality of life as we age?

LatinX Point of View Podcast

Listen to the episode on the following platforms. (iTunes, Spotify, Spreaker, Play Music, SoundCloud) LatinX Point of View Podcast covers relevant topics through a cultural lens. Topics include entertainment, culture, business, government, and social justice. Subscribe to the podcast, follow the podcast on Twitter, and contact the hosts via email.

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina.
  • Wealth inequality or wealth gap is the unequal distribution of assets among residents of the United states.
  • The changing racial/ethnic composition of the population under 18, compared with those ages 65 and older, has created a “diversity gap” between generations.
  • By 2014, 23 percent of men and about 15 percent of women ages 65 and older were in the labor force, and these levels are projected to rise further by 2022, to 27 percent for men and 20 percent for women.
facts

Interview with Medical Gerontologist Fatma Nur Mozoğlu

Fatma Nur Mozoğlu is a fifth-year student of Antalya Akdeniz University Health Sciences, Faculty Department of Gerontology and Eskişehir Anadolu University Social Work, The nation’s first Gerontology department was founded in 2006 at Antalya Akdeniz University. In 2018, Fatma was published in the Scholar Journal of Applied Sciences and Research. Her paper titled Gerontology and Aging in Turkey focused on healthy tourism, medications, and older adults, and university for older adults. She also works on a university initiative to encourage lifelong learning for students over 60. We are excited to interview Fatma about her research thesis and making intergenerational connections. Follow her on Twitter @fatmanurmozoglu

Can you tell us about your journey in Gerontology?

I started my journey in the Department of Gerontology at Turkey Antalya Akdeniz University Faculty of Health Sciences, this was in the 2014–2015 academic year. It has been a fun run and I’m excited to be writing my thesis with my adviser Dr. İkuko Murakami on the use of medicines for older adults.

Can you tell us about your work on intergenerational connections?

Since 2014, I have been working with Prof. Dr. Ismail Tufan and his team from the Gerontology department. Dr. Tufan is the gerontology chief of the department, he and his team published Turkey Gerontology Atlas (Gero Atlas) using data from the past 15 years. Gero Atlas was launched in 2000 and is expected to be completed in 2023.

60+ Tazelenme University is Turkey’s first Senior University. The university is specific to Turkey and aims to develop a model that will set an example in the world. It was founded by Akdeniz University as part of Dr. Tufan’s project on Gero Atlas. Open and free for students over 60, training lasts for four years and students can enroll in a variety of classes from archeology to agriculture. While all the courses have proven beneficial, a new knitting course offered only to men has given a special boost for those experiencing memory loss. Between classes, male students pass time knitting sweaters, berets, scarves and socks in the campus garden.

This initiative has created a new way of perceiving older adults in Turkey. On the 60+ Tazelenme University campus, it is ensured that lifelong learning is realized through theoretical courses, while on the other hand, practical lessons allow students to discover their talents. The aim of the training is to connect with younger generations studying on campus in a similar environment, older adults and gerontology students can benefit from their knowledge and experiences as they work together on projects. The main purpose of these studies is to encourage lifelong learning and I’m excited to contribute to the management of this project.

In your opinion what three words describe the characteristics of older adults in Turkey? 

Active, Knowledgeable, Healthy

What are you most proud of in your life?

I am a volunteer for environmental carbon offset and nature projects. I am glad to have Erasmus experience in the capital of Croatia. Additionally, I am an educator for disadvantaged groups, our topics are social entrepreneurship, safe internet, and innovation. Public and private services provided by the Internet makes life easier for people in the world. Use of the internet is growing rapidly in Turkey but everyone is not able to equally benefit from this technology.

I am a member of Crossing Paths, an organization running education and social responsibility programs mainly targeting the youth in Turkey. Crossing Paths believes that “most of our problems can be resolved through education, a kind of education that promotes empathy, tolerance, social responsibility and respect for differences. We trust that we can meet on common ground with anyone who shares this belief independent of their ethnic background, religion, political views, gender, sexual orientation, and age.” Crossing Paths was founded in Turkey.

What are your future career goals?

I would like to be an international researcher and academician. I am going to graduate in June 2019 and hope to start a masters degree next year. I am currently exploring internships with nursing homes, hospitals, and Alzheimer’s centers among others.

What do you like to do for fun?

I’m interested in tango, salsa, theater, painting, extreme sports, yoga, scuba diving etc. I play tennis as well as flute. I’ve also taken part in fun projects about stray animals and environmental pollution ecology in Croatia and Turkey.

Is there any other information that you would like to add?

I have many startup and project experience, I believe that social relations contribute to my academic career. I would like to reach more audiences by setting up a gerontology news channel on YouTube. I would also like to work with older adults and their families. Thanks to the Global Health Aging team for this lovely interview!

A Call to Reclaim Aging Today

Anti-aging! It’s everywhere.

There’s lotions, potions, creams, and make-up. Shampoo, moisturizers, face masks and toothpaste. There are anti-aging diets promoting superfoods, revitalizing drinks, vitamins, herbal mixes, homeopathic remedies and juicing whilst at the same time we read the latest story about the oldest person on the planet reaching that age on wine, chocolate, and a maverick attitude!

We’re told about anti-aging exercises, treatments, laser surgery, sun lamps, and cosmetic procedures. We’re advised on clothes, underwear, hairstyle, hair color, and even eyebrow shape!

There are books, magazines, DVDs, radio programmes, tv programmes, youtube channels, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Snaps, Insta influencers, podcasts, and blogs all dedicated to anti-aging.

We can even go on retreats, workshops, and seminars to learn, discuss and discover the best ways to beat aging.

Why?

Aging is a sign of survival- what’s the alternative? Not surviving? Not a great option. We need to celebrate having survived, realizing that the wrinkles, the lines, the grey hairs are a mark of success, of having reached a point in life that is your new record and you beat that record every day by getting older day by day. A ‘personal best’ you might say.

Whilst there appears to be a huge industry in ‘anti-aging’ and there is a myriad of ways that are promoted to be able to ‘stay young’, it cannot be denied that we are, all of us, not staying young! And that surely is the point.

We are all getting older and that is a good thing, we should stop trying to defy aging and, instead, live positively. Shake off the dreadful, negative, old age stereotypes and ask yourself what is so bad about aging that it has created such an ‘anti’ industry?

Let’s all be pro-age and let’s call out and challenge all the age discrimination that exists out there which has led to this huge ‘anti-aging’ phenomenon.

Let’s do it today.

Morna O’May is the Head of Service for Scotland at Contact the Elderly, the national charity dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation amongst older people living in the United Kingdom. Morna also writes the Goodstuffgreatideas blog about all things Third Sector. Follow Morna on Twitter.

Social and Financial Costs of Millennial Dementia Caregivers

A report by the Center for Healthcare Innovation.

Abstract

With the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease expected to impact 16 million individuals by 2050, younger generations will increasingly assume caregiving responsibilities. More than a third of today’s caregivers are employed full-time. As millennials take on informal caregiving responsibilities, public and workplace policies must consider financial assistance or other support (e.g., family leave or allocated time off). This report explores the economic impact of the shift to millennial caregivers and the higher rate of incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in minority groups. The report concludes with a discussion of strategies at the organizational-and system-level to support millennial caregivers.

Calls for Action

  1. Define public policy in supporting family caregivers in providing care.
  2. Address how universities can better support student caregivers.
  3. Companies and employers take the lead in supporting working caregivers.
  4. Caregiver supports begin in communities.

Figure 1. U.S. population 65+ (in millions)

To view the white paper, click here.
To view the best practice, click here.

Interview with Cognitive Neuroscientist Judy Lobo

Judy Lobo is a cognitive neuroscience graduate student at the University of Miami. She uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and cell staining methods to study the links between health and cognitive abilities. fMRI is a technique for measuring brain activity and cell staining is used to better visualize cells and cell components under a microscope. Her Master’s project was one of the first fMRI investigations into Successful Cognitive Aging or “SuperAgers”. As a part of the BREATH Lab at the University of Miami, she also works with HIV populations. Their current work focuses on the mind-body interactions between chronic inflammation and the disruption of functional brain activity. We are excited to interview Judy about her research, fighting Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and the role of exercise in cognitive decline. Follow her on Twitter @judi_diane

Can you tell us about your journey in science?

I am an unlikely member of the academic community. I am a mixed-race, Honduran American student and I do notice that I rarely see students like me (much less faculty) that understand where and what I come from. I am now in my third year of graduate school and finally feeling like I can catch the flow of research life, however, this was after an intensive cultural immersion into the academic environment. I must admit that I do love it, I love learning about the brain and rubbing elbows with people who are equally passionate about my field. This was a world I waited for years to be admitted into.

What areas of research are you currently pursuing?

I am part of a very interdisciplinary lab. I concentrate my efforts on fMRI analysis and how we can use it to understand and treat memory loss. I am interested in the mysterious phenomena of “SuperAgers”, older adults that are still as sharp as individuals who are 20 to 30 years old. I study their brain activity and how that contributes to their “special” abilities. However, there is another side to my research. I study brain activity changes due to exposure of HIV-disease as well as cell staining and cell cultures. I use these methods to investigate how inflammation relates to brain activity and memory abilities. *Cell culture is the process of obtaining cells from a plant or animal and then growing them in an artificial environment.

What’s one piece of advice you would give early career researchers?

Broadly, learn to work and study with others. As you get to advanced stages of your academic career, two heads truly are better than one.

How can science communication contribute to fighting against AD?

I think this is a vital piece that AD research needs right now. First of all, awareness of what AD is and how it can be prevented. Prevention is our best weapon against AD right now and it is possible to do so with simple life changes. Greater awareness also has a feedback effect; if more people knew about our research I also think more of them would volunteer for the studies and support our efforts.

What’s one recommendation you’d give people wanting to reduce their risk of AD?

Exercise. It’s the best intervention or treatment we have so far for cognitive decline.

What are you most proud of in your life?

At the moment, I am most proud of my current position. I would have been a happy teenager if someone told me that I would be doing fMRI research as a part of the University of Miami. I am a part of amazing research groups, such as the McKnight Research group which is a team of neurologists, neuropsychologist, radiologists all at the same investigating treatments for age-related neurodegeneration.  I am also a regular at the Brain Connectivity and Cognition Laboratory, which is one of the research laboratories that I looked up to earlier in my career.

What are your future career goals?

I hope to take fMRI research as far as I can. It has been a rewarding experience and it is such an impressive community. However, students like me have lower chances to move on to direct their own laboratory, so I remain open to prospects in the industry.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love making art. I have film cameras and paint canvases all stashed in my home for the rare moments when there is time to make something or shoot pictures.

Is there any other information that you would like to add?

To an early career researcher that is also an underrepresented minority, I would say: You are not alone. It’s a challenging life path, which is made more challenging if you blame yourself for a lot of the challenges that you encounter in academia.

Interview with Alzheimer’s researcher, blogger, and advocate Maya Gosztyla

Maya Gosztyla is the creator of AlzScience. Her passion for Alzheimer’s disease began at a young age when her grandmother was diagnosed with vascular dementia following a stroke. She currently works in a lab at the National Institutes of Health, where she’s researching a rare neurodegenerative disorder called Niemann-Pick Disease. In addition to her love of research, Maya has a passion for science writing and hopes to continue educating the public about the ways we can keep our brains healthy as we age. We are excited to interview Maya about her research, fighting Alzheimer’s and the role of diet in brain health. Follow her on Twitter @AlzScience

Can you tell us about your journey in science?

I’ve pretty much always known that I wanted to be a scientist, but the exact field of science has varied quite a bit. For most of my high school, I wanted to be an astrophysicist. But then I took an advanced biology course in my senior year, and I was hooked! I ended up going to college at the Ohio State University and double-majoring in Neuroscience and Molecular Genetics. I knew I wanted to get involved with research, so I joined a lab that was studying how axons (the long projections that neurons use to send electrochemical signals) are guided to their proper destinations during the development of the nervous system. This research was fascinating work, but over time, my interests began to drift more toward studying human diseases. I spent some time in Switzerland doing a research project on Alzheimer’s disease, which convinced me that this was the area of research that I wanted to focus on. After I graduated, I secured a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where my research has a biomedical focus. I’m now applying to Ph.D. programs in Neuroscience, and I hope to begin my enrollment this fall. I plan to research the underlying mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases (including Alzheimer’s) and develop new strategies for treatment.

What areas of research are you currently pursuing?

My section of the NIH is called the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. We are interested in the “bench to bedside” research, which involves taking scientific discoveries and trying to apply them to treating diseases. One of my projects is to develop a method to quantify how much cholesterol is inside of neurons that are growing in a dish. There are several diseases caused by the accumulation of too much cholesterol, including Niemann Pick Disease (also known as “childhood Alzheimer’s disease”). We are hoping that this new method will allow us to quickly screen thousands of different chemicals to see if any of them can reduce how much cholesterol is inside these cells. After that, we can investigate those chemicals further and try to develop them into a new treatment.

What’s one fact that you’ve learned about the brain?

During the day, your neurons are working hard sending lots of signals, and in the process, they release a lot of waste products into your brain. One of these waste products is amyloid-beta, a toxic protein that’s believed to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. Luckily, when we sleep, all the gunk inside your brain gets cleared away. That’s why getting enough sleep is so important!

What’s one piece of advice you would give to early career researchers?

One of the best things I ever did was start a science blog. It’s a great way to get more familiar with your field of research while helping other people to understand. It’s also great for networking; so far two people at my Ph.D. interviews have told me that they are regular readers of my blog!

How can science communication contribute to fighting against Alzheimer’s disease (AD)?

There’s a lot of misinformation surrounding Alzheimer’s disease. A lot of people don’t realize that only one-third of your overall risk is due to genetics—the rest is all determined by your lifestyle choices! A balanced diet, regular exercise, and lifelong learning can dramatically reduce your risk of getting this disease. I’m hoping that my efforts in science communication can help more people learn how to start taking better care of their brains.

What’s one recommendation you’d give people wanting to reduce their AD risk?

Probably the number one best thing you can do for your brain is to improve your diet. A lot of research has shown that the Mediterranean diet, which is also great for heart health, dramatically reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This diet minimizes saturated fat and red meats while consuming lots of vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Even if you take a small step toward improving your diet, like cutting out all sugary beverages, it can make a big difference in your brain health, not to mention your body!

What are you most proud of in your life?

I started my blog AlzScience about three years ago, and I’m so proud of how far it’s come. Last year the site had nearly 15,000 readers and also won a Science Seeker Award. It’s fantastic when people comment that they are grateful to learn the information.

What are your future career goals?

This fall, I’m planning to start a Ph.D. program in Neuroscience. My goal is to pursue a career in research either as a professor or in the pharmaceutical industry. I hope I can play a key part in bringing Alzheimer’s cure research to fruition.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love jogging; it’s my favorite way to clear my head. I also read a lot, and occasionally play around on my violin.

For current and future older adults

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