Dr Alison Canty (Class of 1993) Associate Professor of Neuroscience
Posted on October 9, 2023
Dr Alison Canty has recently returned to Hobart after a year in Ireland with her family. Alison accepted a one-year position as an Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health at the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity College Dublin. Over the years her career has also taken her to Melbourne, to Stockholm, to London…but it’s Tasmania that keeps drawing her back. And it’s the strong friendships that she made during her time at Friends’ that have given her life a sense of continuity.
Charles Rawlings-Way | Assistant – Alumni Content
Hooked on neurophysiology
After I finished school, I went straight into a Bachelor of Science degree at UTAS. In what I thought was my final year of study, my third year, I took a neurophysiology subject – and from that moment I was hooked on trying to understand how the brain works. I ended up doing an honours year investigating the brain’s response to injury. Then I moved to Melbourne for a research assistant job, which turned into a PhD, which I viewed as my ticket to travel to the world. I spent a long time overseas in Stockholm, then London, before returning to Hobart for a lecturing job at UTAS in 2010.
I’m an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at UTAS these days, working at the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre in the College of Health and Medicine. I’m really interested in dementia – what causes it, how we can treat it, and how it might be prevented or slowed down. I help to lead our education programs and do research into understanding how the brain changes through ageing, and with dementia.
And, after all that time away, I have somehow ended up living back in Taroona, which is where I grew up. I live with my husband and our two little boys, who are six and 10.
Pack your bags: we’re off to Dublin
In August 2022, we embarked on a family adventure and moved to Ireland, so I could take up a one-year position as an Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health at the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity College Dublin. This was an opportunity to meet with 30 other Fellows from around the world – all of us with very different backgrounds, united by the common interest in reducing the scale and burden of dementia at a global level.
Professionally, this meant a year-long explosion of shared learning, fascinating conversations, creative ideas and the formation of what will become a life-long network of friends and colleagues.
Personally, we experienced a new way of life and education, the warmth and generosity of the Irish, living in the foothills of the Wicklow mountains, exploring the whole of Ireland and being only a few hours from so many other European countries. It was a perfect opportunity to spend more time with our Irish and British relatives, and to learn more about how other people live.
The old school yard
With my 30-year reunion this year, I’ve been thinking about the things that have stayed with me from my six years at Friends’ – and there are a few standouts. I consider myself agnostic, but the underlying Quaker values of peace, equality, respect and service have turned into life-long values of mine.
I remember how approachable the teachers were at Friends’ – their openness and willingness to teach me about the world, to inspire me to think big and aim high, or to just have a chat. Even today, 30 years later, I can picture Mr Marriot writing on the blackboard in Advanced Maths, his long comb-over bobbing around behind him as he proclaimed, “Horse plus horses don’t equal goats”; Dr Castley shouting, “Out the window!” in Physics; and Mr Brown’s obscure sense of humour that enthralled some of us, but mystified the rest.
I also remember my many years in the rowing club, which culminated in being ‘Captain of Boats’ in my final year. I learned to row in the ‘Hallam’ – which I’m sure was the heaviest and widest boat in the history of rowing. I honestly can’t even remember if we ever won the ‘Head of the River’ up at Lake Barrington, but gee we tried hard and gave it everything we had. That feeling of complete and utter exhaustion… Every day since then, I have benefited from the grit and determination that we developed as a crew and a club over those years.
What you learn at school can set you up for life. Use your school years as an opportunity to try new things, to explore new ways of thinking and doing, and to find out what really interests and motivates you as a person.
I remember how approachable the teachers were at Friends’ – their openness and willingness to teach me about the world, to inspire me to think big and aim high, or to just have a chat.
Friends for life
The friendships that I formed in my Friends’ years have been through plenty of ups and downs: prolonged separations, weddings, funerals, the birth of children… But these friendships remain strong and have given my life a sense of continuity.
Invest your time in building strong friendships in your teenage years – both within and beyond your own year level. This is what you’ll fall back on in the years ahead. These are the people who will rally behind you, support you, celebrate your successes, inspire you to keep going, and remind you of how far you’ve come.