For Post Doctoral Faellow (PDF) David Stirling, his goal of transitioning from being a PDF to a junior faculty member is closer to being realized, following the recent news that he secured his first grant as a lead investigator, worth $150,000 USD, to study spinal cord injuries (SCI).Dave hails from British Columbia. He completed his doctoral degree (PhD) at UBC and joined the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) in 2006 as a PDF in Dr. V.W. Yong’s lab. In the Yong lab, his work focused on the search for new ways of promoting spinal tissue preservation following SCI. This experience resulted in several published papers and led to an opportunity to join the team led by Dr. Peter Stys.
The Stys lab is equipped with state of the art microscopy equipment, which has allowed Dave to build on his imaging expertise and pioneer new techniques for studying SCIs. Dave explains, “My approach to looking at SCI is unique in that you can get the ‘whole’ picture of what happens to the spinal cord immediately following an injury, in real-time.”In addition to the advanced technologies that are available to him, Dave credits the incredible support provided by Dr. Stys, who allows him to run his research project independently within a well established lab. “Peter has been championing the project by allowing me full access to the equipment and encouraging the free thought and creativity required to execute my experiments.” says Dave.
The combination of a cutting edge microscopy facility, the mentorship of Dr. Stys, and the other facilities and expertise available at the HBI laid the groundwork for Dave’s successful grant application to the Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation.
The Paralyzed Veterans of America Research Foundation mission is to promote innovative research to find better treatments and cures for paralysis. They provide either fellowship support for newly appointed PDFs or as in Dave’s case encourage senior PDFs to apply as principal investigators. “There are few grant opportunities for SCI research at the foundational level,” says Dave, “but this organization encourages the basic science and the career growth of PDFs in order to promote spinal cord research to up and coming researchers.”Dave admits it’s the challenge and complexity of SCI and the devastasting impact that these injuries often inflict that keeps him motivated to continue with his research. He also holds out great hope that his work and that of others will one day lead to new treatments that will improve neurological recovery following spinal cord and nerve injuries.