Embracing her animal instincts
Growing up as an animal lover with an inquisitive mind, Nina Weishaupt, PhD, DVM, always dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.
“I was the little girl that wanted to spend my time with animals and knew from a young age that I would one day go to veterinary school,” Weishaupt explained.
And that is exactly what the postdoctoral scholar did prior to making the leap into neuroscience research.
While studying veterinary medicine in her home country of Germany, Weishaupt was invited to attend the prestigious Leadership Program for Veterinary Students at Cornell University — an opportunity for select students from around the world to become exposed to research and career options in leadership, government, industry and academia. It was this experience that sparked Weishaupt’s interest in neuroscience research, and compelled her to make a career switch.
After completing her PhD at the University of Alberta’s Centre for Neuroscience, the award-winning scientist accepted a postdoctoral fellowship position in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. Co-supervised by Shawn Whitehead, PhD, and Dr. Vladimir Hachinski, the postdoctoral scholar’s current research involves looking into cardiovascular risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, including stroke, hypertension and diabetes.
Using cutting-edge technology like imaging mass spectrometry and innovative animal models, she hopes to find mechanistic links between stroke and the brain's vulnerability in developing dementia.
“People who have a stroke are twice as likely to develop dementia later on, and many of them suffer cognitive decline even if they are not diagnosed with dementia,” Weishaupt explained. “The model we are working with is very valuable to the human condition, so I hope that in the next five to 10 years we make enough progress that this moves into clinical trials.”
When choosing a project to work on for her fellowship, it was incredibly important to Weishaupt that her research had translational impact. This now means even more to her as a dedicated volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Society of London and Middlesex and the Alzheimer Outreach Services at McCormick Home, as she has developed personal relationships with people affected by neurodegenerative diseases.
“With research, your every day reward is not always there and it can be frustrating when your experiments do not work out after months of hard work,” Weishaupt said. “To see how the research I am working on could potentially be useful to the people I volunteer with and others all over the world, that is what keeps me motivated.”
In addition to volunteering, Weishaupt enjoys a number of hobbies in her spare time. A self-proclaimed outdoor enthusiast, she enjoys hiking, running, cycling and mountain biking with her small dog Mixx. She also enjoys baking for others, and creates hand-made paper crafts and greeting cards in her basement studio.