Seven minutes in stroke - Andrew Bivard

1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?
When I left high school, it was obvious to me that I wanted to be involved in science and I enrolled in an Information Technology degree at the Australian National University in Canberra. For some reason I went to one of Australia’s best science universities to study technology. Early in the degree I knew that IT was not for me and decided to change to psychology. In psychology the neuroscience components around the visual system which are taught to all first years really struck a chord with me and I decided to change degrees again to pure neuroscience and never looked back. My parents where concerned that I kept changing degrees but I was very determined to do something I enjoyed, which was the end result.

2. Why stroke?
For me it was purely that I had the opportunity. After a neuroscience degree, I was looking for a research honours project to do and really wanted to focus on a human population rather than a lab based project. I did not have a high distinction average and some of my options were limited. Through sheer good fortune an opportunity emerged in the small town of Newcastle which I immediately took up. It turned out that the group that I had started with were world leaders in clinical stroke research and were very enabling of new researchers. This generosity allowed me to start a science career in clinical stroke research. So to answer why neuroscience and stroke, these are fields that I have a great instinctive interest in and never get bored reading about or working on.

3. What have been the highs so far?
Some of the normal science highs, getting your first paper, your first small project grant, your first fellowship, your first major grant, the first international presentation or the first high impact paper. I was also fortunate enough to win young investigator of the year at the International Stroke Conference in Heidelberg Germany in 2013. Then there are other highs, such as proving a point, for me that was for a recently published paper in Brain showing that imaging selection of acute ischemic stroke patients helps identify that only about 1/3 of patients arriving in the time window have a treatable penumbra, salvage of which results in improved clinical outcomes. I had been working with the Newcastle team on promoting this concept for many years and this paper sealed our efforts in many ways. Lastly, a high is actually what the future holds, we are working on several very exciting projects such as the phase 3 TASTE trial and our recently completed phase 2 fatigue trial MIDAS.

4. What have been the lows?
All of the rejection letters from journals, grant funding bodies and fellowship applications. There are just so many!

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?
This is very tough, there is really no limit to how much you can put in at work. I treat weekends as sacred time and nothing can take them away anymore. During my whole PhD I never had a weekend off, so that I could get the work done and earn some extra money because the scholarship is set at the poverty line in Australia.

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?
By chance I found my PhD supervisor, and the rest is history really.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?
Common interests have built my current collaborations. We work with the Glasgow hospital stroke group on tenecteplase trial data, 3 hospitals in China on a large multi-centre database of perfusion imaging, hospitals in Canada on the use of non-contrast perfusion imaging and groups in the United States for genetics projects. At the end of the day, these collaborators are people who I would gladly socialise with or wouldn’t mind being stuck on a long flight with because we can communicate freely and honestly.
Seven minutes in stroke - Andrew Bivard Reviewed by Carmen Lahiff-Jenkins on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 Rating: 5

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