Liisa Galea, PhD'94, was one of the first PhD graduates from the Department of Neuroscience.
While her early undergraduate education focused on engineering, she decided to switch into neuroscience for her graduate education because she had always been interested in studying the brain.
“I remember listening to psychology lectures on the brain and being so fascinated by them,” she said. “I remember being nervous about making the switch into neuroscience because it was a challenging new program, but now I’m so glad I went for it.”
Originally from Toronto, Galea now runs the University of British Columbia’s Laboratory of Behavioural Neuroendocrinology, where she studies stress and sex hormones such as corticosterone, estrogens and androgens. She is interested in how these hormones affect the brain in terms of cognition, neuroplasticity and emotional-related behaviour.
Galea explained that women are more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and depression, whereas men are more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and autism.
To her, that suggests there could be some biological factor behind the diagnoses, which is what she is trying to better understand.
She hopes to help others recognize that men and women have different physiologies that contribute to a variety of diseases.
“I think the only way we will find better treatments for people is if we start paying more attention to these details,” she said.
Even though Galea is now mid-career, she still reflects on her time at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry with fond memories. She sometimes even wishes she could go back to those days.
The supervisors she had — Martin Kavaliers, PhD, and Klaus-Peter Ossenkopp, PhD — made a considerable impact on her career.
“I learned a lot from the mentors I had during that period of time — people like the late Doreen Kimura, PhD, and Melvyn Goodale, PhD,” she said. “They pushed me and really taught me to critically examine my data and my own biases, which is such an important skill to have.”
Her advice to current graduate students is to enjoy every moment of their education to the fullest, and to be sure they really enjoy what they are doing.
“If you enjoy what you do, and you truly love it, you will never be bored — it will never feel like work.”