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Episode 16 of 35

Alzheimer's and Science Communication with Dr Sabine Bird (#16)

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Duration: 58:41
Dr Sabine Bird's background has taken her from a science degree at the University of Cologne in Germany, and extensive work experience at a biotech company for nearly 3 years, to medical research laboratories in Ireland and Australia. Sabine ended up in a clinical setting within the Neurosciences Re
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Dr Sabine Bird's background has taken her from a science degree at the University of Cologne in Germany, and extensive work experience at a biotech company for nearly 3 years, to medical research laboratories in Ireland and Australia. Sabine ended up in a clinical setting within the Neurosciences Research team at Edith Cowan University in Perth.

While working there, she gained extensive experience in neuropsychological testing of clinical study participants in addition to continuing some laboratory work alongside. Sabine ultimately completed her PhD in Neurosciences within the same research group through the University of Western Australia in Perth.

Sabine has a true passion for learning about scientific matters, which includes reading and learning about a broad spectrum of fields, and does not reject an opportunity that helps her expand her horizons, provides a challenge, or gives new thinking tools to apply to all situations in life.

In our conversation, we talk about STEM education and communication, Alzheimer's research, and endurance cycling.

Show Notes (link)


[00:50] Sabine's journey from biology to neuroscience.
[01:37] The European practice of working in your field of study while you complete your studies.
[02:02] Completing her studies in Ireland.
[04:02] Taking a 'gap year' to... study more.
[05:11] The factors that contribute to Europe having better access to applicable part-time jobs while studying.
[05:43] The ABC region.
[07:25] Observations on the density and support of similar industries in Perth and Australia.
[08:16] Diversity of experience and backgrounds expands our thinking and leads to more advances.
[10:52] Cultivating educational support for the young.
[13:06] Counter the geographic isolation of Australia with more opportunities for international exchange.
[14:07] Sabine's experiences with science communication at schools.
[14:32] Observations about home economics as a subject at school.
[16:07] Speculating on curriculum changes.
[17:47] What is science anyway?
[20:14] The breadth of scope of science and opening your mind to possibilities.
[22:49] From biological sciences to Alzheimer's research.
[25:46] Science is a team sport.
[29:48] Sabine's PhD topic.
[31:38] The relationship between Sabine's endurance cycling and her research.
[34:50] The kinds of experiences and opportunities a background in science can lead to.
[39:27] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
[41:11] How Sabine found her way to endurance cycling.
[42:28] Sabine's achievements in endurance cycling.
[44:47] The effects of sleep deprivation.
[46:17] Training for an event like the Race Across America.
[48:39] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
[51:49] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?
[56:46] Reaching out to Sabine.


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Snippet Transcripts
So as we mentioned earlier on the cycling already. So I I do love cycling. I do like sports in general, which is nice. Uh, I guess that would be something that is most away from science is um, I do like long distance riding as well. Clears the mind for a while until nightfall comes. That's not securing, but yeah, I guess that's probably the most important hobby. I do, I do like an awful lot of things. I must say that are outside of the world of science, like cultural experiences just as much. And I'm a big fan of the outdoors. I like camping and just getting out there and just enjoy standing in a forest and one of the models just embracing the trees. Yeah, I do actually, I do like trees a lot. Someone actually gave me a book on trees once. It was a joke at the time, but it was pretty fitting. Yeah, course. Yeah. And there's a lot of science and trees as well by the way, especially when you look at how they communicate with amongst each other using their root system. Uh, there was an article a few years ago by the new scientists and they were basically saying the five senses of trees and that was incredible. Um, so there are signs everywhere where we going and you appreciate nature a lot more. If you have a little bit of background knowledge about how things work doesn't have to be deep, deep understanding, but it's, it certainly feels the imagination if you have to solve problems that you have no clue about like the universe. That's the magic. Yeah, it certainly provides you some creativity and some ideas. Yeah. So, you know, endurance cycling, how did you get into that? I do. I can't remember quite frankly, I can't remember, but I've always been that person that that sees the corner at the end of the road and I need to know what's behind it. And then when you get around the corner and you see another one, he said, oh yeah, I go there and and then look what's behind there. So basically, and that's what I do all day long until I run out of steam. I guess cycling was just very fitting there because you just keep going just another, another hour, another 30 Ks or something. It just kept going and I really enjoy the process of it. So it's not so much about getting to the final goal. The cycling is for me anyway, it's about the whole movement and I enjoy, I just enjoy just doing, doing the activity of cycling, just how I started doing it. So, I do remember one of your earlier podcast you had back Weeden on and she also is a cyclist, but a very different one. She likes to get to the finish line as quickly as possible, relatively successful at that uh in competition. Whereas I'm reliable of the opposite. I take my time and I even watch the scenery in races. So, But yeah, it's just two different styles. It is different stars. But you know, you've achieved so much within your own cycling there, like you Yeah. Unconfirmed record for the 25 road race and that's what, 700 and something km In the 3rd year. So that's 24 hours. That's nuts. Yeah, that's something that I got into. I've I've done a few 24 hour races in the meantime and a few long distance races as well and multi days. But it's a yeah, it's an interesting one, definitely. I do not have any a deer anymore holder started, but I realized I was good at it and I just kept at it and I think it's the pain management. So after a while you get a lot of pain and you feel pain and then you start thinking about what pain actually. You start thinking about how can I control it because technically it's only what the brain tells you, but the brain tells you things much earlier than is really necessary. And then you try and, you know, set new boundaries and, and maybe you push them just to see how you react. And it becomes an awful lot of experimenting and it's really just a science study in itself and then you just keep going and going and going and try to understand what the body does right now. And I think, I think I'm just so busy thinking about these things that I forget to give up. So people like, like flies, whereas I'm still busy thinking about what's going on and that's how I just kept going all the time. But it's it's a tremendous experiment experience for sure, not just an experiment, it's all that experience. Um just to understand the body what it does and just to push limits is interesting, interesting to feel alone. It's it's good. But yeah, there's certainly more in the pipeline in the near future and trying to make it a little bit more confirmed and whatnot. So we see what the future holds in that regard. It's definitely, especially after the race across America last year as well. Yeah, I didn't know that was that well known, but yeah, it's that was a tough one, indeed, haven't got that many memories. And my brain was like i it's just very tough, You just you ride for for days and days and days without any sleep and I think I got an accumulated three hours of sleep in six days or something. So it was it was a tough one. It's um certainly quite quite a push for the body. Oh my goodness. Like, I don't remember the exact details and probably making it up now, but there was a apparently in the s a s handbook or something, something like that. They were talking about how this is only a certain amount of sleep that you can do without before you basically shoot at anything that moves and I'm thinking three hours over six days probably breaches that threshold. It definitely does in talking about the S. S handbook, I believe it is officially a sign of torture if you get that little sleep and they got as forces you to do it. It's officially against human rights laws, but doesn't communist masochism. I wasn't aggressive though, I know that for sure, I was pretty, pretty mellow for the entire time. I was probably sleepy anyway, but I do remember I had a couple of great hallucinations, but they're always involved animals and uh listen, yeah, you know, like gorilla here and there, little monkey. Um Yeah, and you see animals a lot, you know how you have the delusions where there's maybe letterbox in the far distance and you think a monkey or a horse or something. So um yeah, our brain plays an awful lot of tricks and our brain is fascinating as if, you know, a little bit more about it and to put it on a so much stress that it gives you such false readings. It's pretty exciting. It's actually quite interesting citing to some brothers. Yeah, there's certainly there's certainly a lot of signs in endurance cycling, that's for sure. How long did it take the train for? Something like the race across America. Look, I don't think there's ever a point when you're ready for it, you just go for it. Uh you need to do a fair bit of training what he adjusts only over time. So ideally in an ultra endurance cycling, you want to be um you want to be in the scene for a good 10 years before the body is really used to these things. Um and adapted accordingly. The immune system is always an issue, fluid retention issues, especially in women, um, is a problem. So the hormonal imbalances, there's a lot of things that the body has to adapt to very slowly. But again, medical science is a big deal in races like that of course. And I just make use of a little bit of research and knowledge and hope that will fix problems in the future, wow, that's amazing. Mm Yeah, we're trying to make it exciting. I guess you only have that one life, right? You might as well try and use it to the fullest, into the best you can. Yes. To society anyway, somehow. Oh, wow. Yeah, definitely. So you're still training for your next endurance? Yeah, I'm, you know, trying to get a fit again. I've doing covid times, I've, I've ridden my bike, but it wasn't anything strange is just take away nicely and trying to get ready for the next year and see what next year brings, yep, definitely, wow, brilliant, fantastic. Looking forward to seeing how you go with that. Yes, Thank you. You've got a fan of course. Uh huh. We see, look, there's a lot of great people out there. Look, the more intensive work is I always reckoned the more intense your passion is for a hobby outside the work. It's I think maybe that's what science doesn't touch to you do everything to an extreme. Nothing is just moderate. That does seem to be a trend. I think there are a lot of people out there that take their job very seriously and very full on and then their their work life balance as long as they have one is just equally insane. And a lot of examples like that must be the work pressure. Yeah. It's passion everywhere basically. Yeah. I guess that's what it is at the end of the day. Yeah.
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