Recent PhD graduate Dr Anastazja Gorecki (The University Western Australia and Perron Institute) has joined an elite group who have passed their thesis with no revisions. 

“My thesis explored the role of the gut in the early disease processes of Parkinson’s and made several novel findings regarding the protein α-synuclein in the gut wall,” Dr Gorecki explained. 

“Growing research shows that an inflamed gut and altered gut microbiome may contribute to Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s involves the misfolding and aggregation of the α-synuclein protein, but the link between gut dysfunction and α-synuclein is still unclear.  

“My findings include genetic associations with gut homeostasis, the presence of α-synuclein in specific cells of the gut, and the influence of microbial metabolites on α-synuclein. The thesis also explored the therapeutic potential of a peptide (R18D) to target α-synuclein pathology in the gut. 

“Deeper understanding of the interaction between the gut and α-synuclein could lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective interventions for Parkinson’s.” 

During her PhD, she published four first-author publications and contributed to eight papers. Dr Gorecki was a Fulbright Future Scholar (2021), which included a four-month visit to Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA. She also recently received a 2023 Early Career Researcher Award from the University of Notre Dame. 

“I’m currently a Lecturer at Notre Dame and love teaching students about neuroscience!” Dr Gorecki said. “I’m also supervising three Honours students who are extending my PhD research. It is fun to plan experiments and show them the joys of lab work.  

“I learned so much during my PhD and am so proud of the finished product. I look forward to integrating my scientific expertise with my interest in diet, movement, and wellbeing.”  

Dr Gorecki’s supervisors were Associate Professor Ryan Anderton (University of Notre Dame), Associate Professor Jennifer Rodger (UWA and Perron Institute), Emerita Professor Sarah Dunlop (Minderoo Foundation) and Associate Professor Subhash Kulkarni (Johns Hopkins, now at Harvard University School of Medicine). 

“I acknowledge the various organisations and scholarships which made this thesis possible, including the Perron Institute and the Fulbright Future Scholarship,” Dr Gorecki said.  

“I’m grateful to my supervisors for their support and mentorship, and all the research students and staff I met along this journey. Also, immense gratitude to my friends and family, particularly my fiancé Glenn – his unwavering confidence in me and support was invaluable.” 

Dr Gorecki’s advice for students includes: “Don’t underestimate the importance of your community, both professional and personal. Always be on the lookout for new connections and collaborations, and don’t neglect your personal relationships! 

“You will become absorbed in your project and four years will fly by. Make sure you enjoy the day-to-day: go for a coffee with your colleagues, take a lunch break, celebrate the small wins, and get a good night’s sleep!” 

Congratulations, Dr Gorecki!