Prof. David Westaway

You’ve Got to Know When to Fold ’em

Research advances rapidly on Alzheimer's and other conditions affected by protein folding and prions


David Westaway is a Professor of Medicine (Neurology) and Director of the Centre for Prions and Protein Folding Diseases at University of Alberta. We asked everything from why he chose his field of study to what’s on his playlist in hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What inspired you to become a scientist?
My high school chemistry teacher, reading the “Chemistry of Life” by Steven Rose and my undergraduate tutor in the UK.

What do you like most about being a scientist?
The constant flux of knowledge from bench experiments; a story can change in unpredicted ways in the course of a single week.

What advice would you give young researchers?
For academia – as soon as possible, ask a Professor how universities and promotions work.

For biotech – consider the other side of the 49th parallel

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I have a naïve hope this still lies in the future but TgCRND8 “Alzheimer’s” mice made in my Toronto lab have been popular in the research community.

What do you read?
Currently – “The Battle for Spain” by Antony Beevor. Frequently – the “Aubrey and Maturin” series by Patrick O’Brien.

What’s on your iPod? (Or if you’re like me and haven’t entered the 21st century, what records do you have?)
I have hundreds of records but these are firmly in the 21st century care of the playback system (see below).

Content wise: Be-bop, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Rickie Lee Jones, 80’s rock.

If you could meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
For me this question alludes to sources of inspiration but there are plenty of these in the here-and-now; colleagues pushing scientific boundaries and families struggling with dementia.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
Architect — creativity without the frustrations inherent in getting high-quality bench data from biological systems

What do you like to do for fun?
Photographing the Great Outdoors. Fiddling with stereo equipment.

Want to learn even more about Prof. Peltier? Check out his Orange Chair Interview.