Rachelle Balez talked to Norwegian primary school students

Rachelle Balez talked to Norwegian primary school students via the web to share her research into Alzheimer’s disease

IHMRI PhD candidate Rachelle Balez was invited to talk science to a group of interested Norwegian primary school students, who wanted to know more about her research.

Former Wollongong local and UOW alumni Joao Oliveira Woolmer is now a primary school teacher in Norway.

With children also home schooling in parts of the Northern Hemisphere, Joao wanted to engage his students to connect with people with interesting careers.

“The students could choose to interview Rachelle, a professional footballer, a pop star, journalist or TV star. Rachelle easily received the most votes,” said Joao Oliveira Woolmer.

The students were so curious about her work and did some incredible research before interviewing her. Since returning to school, we find ourselves constantly referring back to her interview, especially when talking about how to make the most of our brains!”

“Having studied at UOW and seeing Rachelle’s work shared online, I knew how relevant and interesting her work would be to share with my students,” added Joao.

Rachelle is involved in a number of research projects at IHMRI. The 10-year-old Norwegian students were keen to learn more about how she transforms skin cells to brain cells to study Alzheimer’s disease. From the brain cells, Rachelle is able to study the disease mechanisms closer.

“I was so flattered and the kids were so cute. It gave me a real buzz to chat to them and their questions were really great,” said Rachelle.

The students were keen to ask Rachelle about why she chose to study Alzheimer’s disease and what they could do to keep their brains healthy and avoid getting the disease.

After the interview, 10-year-old Mia wrote the following report about the web interview: 

“I wished to interview her because I am very interested in science and would like to become a scientist myself when I grow up. I also liked that she is a girl working in science. I was interested in her field of research because I would love to learn more about how the brain works.

I found it interesting how Rachelle has to babysit the neurons she is working with. She has to feed them regularly (every day) with a bright pink kind of energy drink and has to take really good care of them even on weekends. Otherwise, they might get sick, become unhappy or even die.

Eating healthy, enough sleep, exercising the brain and keeping your mind busy helps to keep your brain healthy. Rachelle said that how you spent your first 50 years of your life will affect the next 30 years.

I found it interesting that to grow the nerve cells, Rachelle has to use skin cells (unlike brain cells they are accessible) which she transforms into stem cells. Once she has those, she can start growing nerve cells by adding chemicals. I would love to watch the whole process.”

The children were also intrigued by tales of Rachelle’s trip to Antarctica and love of creative arts. They also commented about how lovely Rachelle was for giving up her time in the lab to chat to them.

“After being in self-isolation for over 6 weeks and not able to go into the lab, I was starting to lose touch with my research as the COVID-19 pandemic is such a pressing crisis. Speaking with the students was a refreshing reminder that life still goes on and that as researchers we must keep working to fight diseases like Alzheimer’s” said Rachelle.

Media contact

Louise Negline, Communications Coordinator

m: 0417 044 867

e: louisenegline@ihmri.org.au

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