Meet our Early Career Scientist Grant Winner Malaika Mahmood
We’re pleased to introduce another of our Early Career Scientist Grant winners! Malaika Mahmood is a research technician and lab manager at the University of Pennsylvania, USA, and she is the latest recipient of our monthly $500 grant! Every month we're pleased to award a grant to a life science PhD or postdoc to help support their career.
Malaika is currently working in the Gregory Corder lab and will use the grant to help fund her trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada where she is going to present her work on mimicking opioid analgesia in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) of mice during the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society (IBNS) Annual Meeting on 25th-30th June, 2023.
We asked Malaika how she felt about receiving the grant:
Receiving this grant fills me with joy and gratitude. As a research specialist in my gap year, opportunities for grants and support are scarce. Thus, being recognized and awarded with this grant is a true honour. This award serves as a stepping stone for me to advance my career and flourish as an early career scientist. Malaika Mahmood, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, Hello Bio Early Career Scientist Grant winner
Congratulations Malaika! First, can you tell us a bit more about what you're working on at the moment?
Pain is a complex experience that encompasses sensory, cognitive, and emotional aspects, making it challenging to treat. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of understanding, in the mechanism of affective pain. The research I am a part of aims to address this issue by studying the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a region in the brain involved in emotional response to pain. Specifically, we are focusing on mu opioid receptors (MOR), which are responsible for opioids’ pain-relieving effects. Through a targeted genetic approach, we are selectively supressing MOR expressing neurons that also encode pain in the ACC, to observe affective behaviour in mice. Additionally, we are using a breadth of scientific techniques, including behaviour quantification and RNA sequencing, to gain a comprehensive understanding of specific cell-type networks underlying opioid analgesia with the hopes of creating effective treatments for chronic pain patients.
What is it about your field of research that gets you most excited?
The fact that perception plays a critical role in how we experience pain. Our powerful perception influences how we interpret and respond to pain, which encompasses physical, emotional, and psychological aspects. It is an active participant in shaping our experiences, not just a passive receiver of information, and that opens many questions and possibilities in how we can treat and manage pain.
Which scientists working today do you most admire, and why?
I have deep admiration and respect for my peers, colleagues, and mentors who possess remarkable intelligence and resilience. It is truly inspiring to witness their passion and dedication towards their work, and their willingness to lend a hand whenever needed is a testament to their outstanding character.
What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing life scientists and their work?
Life scientists face numerous challenges. The "publish or perish" culture hampers research quality by prioritizing quantity over quality. This pressure leads to rushed analysis and suboptimal outcomes. Additionally, the time-consuming nature of scientific research makes it challenging to meet funding deadlines. Effective communication is another hurdle, as scientists must convey complex concepts to non-experts and make scientific information accessible. Overcoming these challenges fosters public trust, informs better policies, and advances the field of science.
And finally… what’s your favourite science quote?
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” — Jane Goodall
Thank you so much Malaika! We wish you the very best for your presentation at the IBNS Annual Meeting!
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