Louise Nicholson at her home in Snells Beach.

Professor Louise Nicholson believes Kiwi researchers are on the cusp of a cure for spinal cord injuries.

The retired neuroscientist from Snells Beach has dedicated the last decade of her life to the cause, and isn’t afraid to put her money where her mouth is.

Earlier this year, she and husband Jon donated $1 million to the University of Auckland to support PhD students working towards a cure – the largest single donation by any University of Auckland staff member.

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Nicholson’s dedication has seen her nominated for a Making A Difference Award at this year’s Attitude Awards – a recognition which has her feeling “humbled”.

“I’m trying to make a difference and I would love to see a cure in my lifetime,” she said.

It was a “lightbulb moment” of inspiration that brought Nicholson into the spinal cord injury field, she said.

Having approached the Catwalk Trust for sponsorship of the youth science competition Brain Bee Challenge, Nicholson drove away from the meeting feeling as though she should give back to the spinal cord injury trust.

“I thought jeepers, a lot of the work we’re doing [in neuroscience] has direct application to the injury one gets when you damage your vertebrae and damage your spinal chord,” she said.

Nicholson established the Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility within the Centre for Brain Research around five years later, and says work done there is competitive on an international scale.

Centre for Brain Research director Sir Richard Faull says Nicholson’s achievements will “contribute to reducing the effects of spinal cord injury”.

“She has made a difference by transforming our spinal cord research in the Centre for Brain Research and [making] it world class.

“Her contributions give hope to people with spinal cord injuries.”

Nicholson is looking forward to spending time with Jon and her family, and has accepted an invitation to be a board member of the Catwalk Trust.

The Attitude Awards will be held at the Auckland ANZ Viaduct Events Centre on November 9.

 – Rodney Times

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