Unsurprisingly, interning at NeuRA is an enlightening experience for a Media and Communications student unfamiliar with the world of neuroscience. Not only are there all the opportunities associated with learning about exciting research developments – but unexpected opportunities present themselves too.Opportunities like meeting Her Excellency Prof Marie Bashir AC CVO, the Governor of NSW, which I was lucky enough to do at NeuRA’s annual Scholarship Presentation night.
The ceremony was hosted in our seminar room, where students, staff, a range of generous benefactors and, of course, Her Excellency came to congratulate thirteen PhD students on receiving their scholarships.
The scholarship students did more than shake the Governor’s hand as several of them hosted tours of their labs in order to provide a few insights into their research. I had the good fortune of visiting the frontotemporal dementia research lab, where Sharon Savage spoke to five benefactors and other guests including myself.
Sharon’s tour discussed options for those suffering from semantic dementia, a type of dementia where remembering words is the most common problem. In this type of dementia, patients lose recognition or understanding of words we use every day like ‘toaster’ or ‘car’. Sharon’s research is helping to alleviate some of the problems semantic dementia causes in everyday life. She showed us a computer program designed to help re-build patients’ key vocabulary; a program that could be used on anyone’s personal computer at home to improve quality of life.
After the tours, the formalities properly began, and the Governor addressed the audience. She spoke of her personal appreciation for NeuRA’s work which stems from her background in the mental health field. As she passed across their certificates and posed for photos, the Governor whispered words of encouragement to each scholarship winner. I’m sure these words of encouragement mirrored the sentiments she expressed in her speech, where she admitted that presenting the awards to the scholarship winners brought tears to her eyes.
Rachel Maher is a Media and Communications student at the University of Sydney and a Communications Intern at NeuRA