Scientists Rock! The Potato Patch that Harvested a Lifetime in the Lab
Growing up, Gavin Daigle conducted research in laboratories of his own creation. Today, his experiments continue … with a focus on solving the brain’s mysteries.
Scientists Rock! is a monthly Q&A where we pull an AbbVie scientist out of the lab to hear what makes them tick. This month, we chat with Gavin Daigle, Ph.D., senior scientist, Cambridge Research Center, AbbVie. Whether tearing up his mom’s azalea bushes to create a makeshift laboratory, or secretively spicing up family dishes, Gavin’s passion for experimentation began at a very early age. These days, his determination to advance science remains alive and well. The only difference … now, he has the most state of the art tools to aid in his quest.
Tell us the story of how you fell in love with science.
During undergraduate studies, I stumbled upon a geneticist studying movement disorder using fruit flies. With no experience, I convinced her to train me. I remember being super excited about contributing to a purpose even if I was just doing general lab maintenance. Pretty soon after, I gained her trust and was allowed to set up my first genetic experiment where I mated two different fruit fly lines. The result should yield offspring that express a green fluorescent protein in the fly brain. With offspring in hand, I took the vial of flies to a dark room, placed them under the blue light, and found my first experiment glowing.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to become a doctor. In primary school, I would cure my fellow classmates of their tummy aches and pains. I’m happy that I actually did become a doctor, with the skills to advance science that has the potential to alleviate human suffering.
What keeps you coming to work every day?
The excitement of discovery is a driving force. I also have the privilege of working with incredibly brilliant people all passionately seeking breakthrough therapies that treat the underlying cause of a disease that affects millions of people.
“Keep your eyes open, really observe your surroundings. Be inquisitive, and then once you find a biology question that ignites your curiosity, take a deep dive into trying to better understand it.”
What’s one thing that you think is surprising about your job (i.e., something no one would realize you did)?
My research focuses on trying to find what goes wrong in the brain’s memory center in Alzheimer’s disease. Just imagine, looking at the neurons in a human brain section and finding something previously undiscovered. It is fascinating to witness the inception of a new memory learned from the very region of the human brain responsible for this process.
What is your advice to kids interested in a career like yours?
Keep your eyes open, really observe your surroundings. Be inquisitive, and then once you find a biology question that ignites your curiosity, take a deep dive into trying to better understand it. Lastly, follow your interest and get involved in an ongoing science project at a university or other research institute.
In your opinion, why does science rock?
Science rocks because it focuses on figuring out all of the amazing complexities of life. Science gives you the opportunity to solve some of world’s most challenging problems with an analytical and creative approach. Science fosters an environment that allows for disruptive thinking that has the capability of paradigm-shifting discoveries. Personally, I’m living out a dream as a scientist with the most state of the art tools and gadgets to facilitate the discovery of something new.