Ash Allanna Russell
Searching for a Stroke of Genius
PhD Candidate, Neuroscience and Biostatistics
College of Health and Medicine
University of Tasmania
Young Tassie Scientists 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Want to know my favourite science quote? It’s from Charles Darwin, the famous biologist who first described evolution. In 1861 he wrote: “I am very poorly today and very stupid and hate everybody and everything”
Know why it’s my favourite? Because Darwin was clearly having a no good, very bad day, and he felt he was stupid because his work was hard. He didn’t let that stop him from making amazing scientific discoveries though. This quote shows me that you don’t have to be a genius to be a scientist, you just have to face all these complicated problems head-on and not back down.
As a biostatistician, my work is a weird mix of mathematics (the study of numbers) and neuroscience (the study of the brain). I know what you’re thinking: “what a nerd!” and you’d be absolutely right! But what is a nerd except a person who gets really excited over things?
Just to show you how much of a nerd I am, when I was younger my favourite thing to do was solve puzzles and brain teasers. It’s part of the reason I enjoyed maths when I was in school. Every maths problem can be solved logically with a series of simple steps, but each one is still its own unique challenge. My current research is also a complicated task that I hope to unravel using maths.
I study a disease called stroke, it’s where you get a blood clot in your brain. Even though scientists have tested thousands of medicines for strokes, only one has ever been good enough to be used in hospitals. But even that one medicine isn’t very good, 95% of patients with strokes can’t have it! My work combines maths with our knowledge of the brain to try and figure out how help scientists discover new medicines that can help protect people’s brains from stroke.
I guess the part I love most about my work is that solving my fun maths puzzles may one day help people recover from strokes. Even if I must push through hundreds of bad days where I feel very poorly and hate everybody and everything, it’ll be worth it if it helps improve the lives of others.