We go to the library, play at parks, listen to music, read books, and inquisitively touch every new object. My life revolves completely around him.
That is, until nap time.
When he goes down for his nap, I open my laptop and my world turns upside down. Instead of diapers and baby talk, I plunge into sensor data, Python, and word clouds.
I drop the household chores and pick up neural networks, graph analysis, and other analytical techniques. This small, daily foray into research helps me feel grounded in the real world, keeps my brain active with more than baby banter, and allows me to maintain my work connections so I can easily pick them back up when my kids inevitably start school.
This life is made possible in part by the Oregon Charitable Tax Checkoff Grant. I received the grant to research the relationship between the terms people search for on the Internet and their cognitive function just before going on maternity leave.
The work was exciting and novel – figuring out how to best translate searches into quantifiable numbers that can be analyzed and generating compelling figures visualizations that tell a story.
Having my own source of funding for a project I was passionate about was liberating, allowing me to enjoy the work instead of feeling the weight of one additional burden while dealing with the challenges of a child who doesn’t sleep through the night and requires constant attention throughout the day.
I was not only able to complete my analyses but also published a paper on the results in a highly reputable journal, all while primarily raising my son.
I am thankful to the Tax Checkoff Grant for helping me spend so many memorable hours with my son while simultaneously dipping my toes into exciting research every day, helping me keep my brain active and alert. It’s been a fun and rewarding journey.
Johanna Austin, Ph.D., is a post-doctoral fellow in OHSU Neurology, working with Dr. Jeffrey Kaye.
You can contribute to Alzheimer’s research—in Oregon—by donating part, or all, of your tax refund to “Alzheimer’s Disease Research” on Schedule OR-DONATE, Oregon Charitable Checkoff Donations, on your tax form.
This research will increase our understanding of Alzheimer’s and bring us closer to new treatments, test ways to give effective support to caregivers and families of persons with Alzheimer’s disease and pave the way for additional funding from the National Institutes of Health and other national research programs. Funds are administered through OHSU under the direction of Oregon Partnership for Alzheimer’s Research.