5 Questions with Our New Editor-in-Chief

Get to know our new Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Malú Tansey, as she answers 5 questions about her research and experience and shares her thoughts about becoming involved with the journal.

Dr Malu Tansey

What is your research background?
I was trained as a cellular physiologist and became a neuroscientist during my postdoctoral studies investigating signaling pathways that protect against or predispose neurons towards cell death. I became interested in the relationship between neuroinflammation and neurological disorders after spending a short time in a forward-thinking biotech company in California developing next-generation TNF inhibitors and returned to academia to try to make an impact for persons living with neurodegenerative or neuropsychiatric disorders.

What is your current research focused on?
Broadly, the general interests of my research laboratory encompass the role and regulation of neuroinflammatory and immune system responses in modulating the gene-environment interactions that determine risk for development and progression of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases. We employ molecular, cellular, biochemical, neuroimmunological, pharmacological, fixed and live-cell high-content imaging, and behavioral assays to address important mechanistic questions ex vivo and in vivo. The long-term goal of this work is to develop novel therapeutics to prevent or delay the onset of progressive neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases characterized by chronic neuroinflammation.

In a nutshell? My team works on elucidating disease mechanisms and possible therapeutic interventions to rescue neurons, and our most recent challenge is understanding how the immune cells outside the brain – specifically in the blood and in the gut—affect brain function and behavior and determine an individual’s lifetime risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Frontotemporal Dementia. It will take a village to understand this, and we are driven and excited to do so as this opens the door to potentially many novel therapeutic strategies for neurodegeneration!

What has been your biggest challenge and your greatest achievement in your career so far?
Well, that’s a tough question! My biggest challenge has been breaking into anything less conventional and having the confidence to follow my passion or “my gut feeling” if you will, and I do not believe that I am alone in this at all as many women (of color especially) often experience impostor syndrome. Whether it be working on a new hypothesis or research field, or not fitting the role or expectations that society created for you, it’s easy to sabotage your own dreams by getting hooked by the negative thoughts that you won’t be able to achieve what you know you want to achieve. Going against the grain or expectations or starting something new is always challenging. There’s a saying that “you must be brave enough to suck at something new every day!” On the flipside, I think that my greatest achievement in my career so far has been to just be me and “show up” to support my team and my colleagues and teach others how to network and connect them to get from point A to point B, and draw them a picture for how to juggle family, career, friendships, and then task them with an important mission: paying it forward to the next generation.

What are you most looking forward to in your role as Editor-in-Chief?
There are many aspects important to great science and there are two, in particular, that I very much look forward to focusing on in my role as EIC. First, I will do everything I can to increase the diversity of contributing authors to the journal. This includes those submitting manuscripts, those reviewing the manuscripts, as well as the members of the editorial board. This includes female scientists, persons of color, early-stage investigators, all under-represented groups to date in the published world. The science is richer with all these groups contributing to it – and we can achieve a higher impact for the patients this way. Second, we see that many disease mechanisms leading to neurodegeneration are shared across different neurodegenerative diseases, such as dysfunctional lipid signaling and lysosomes as an example. To this end, I look forward to expanding the scope of the journal to also include important and cutting-edge science that may not have been performed in a Parkinson’s disease model or patient, but that is impactful in moving the field of Parkinson’s disease research forward. I am convinced that our readership and the patients and their families will benefit from this. A third and exciting area we will be introducing is a greater on-line presence for the journal in the form of webinar discussions on hot or controversial topics in the field that merit an interactive debate-like forum for exchange of ideas and potential collaborative projects between various individuals or groups. So stay tuned because we’re going to be a lot more fun than a set of printed or online PDFs!  

Why should researchers submit their work to npj Parkinson’s Disease?
Researchers should submit their work to whichever journal they feel is the best fit for their work to have it shine and have its highest impact. At npj Parkinson’s Disease, we look forward to reviewing work that is of high-quality, innovative, rigorously done, and meaningful to the field of Parkinson’s Disease. In return, we aim for a quick turnover time for reviews and editorial decisions. And, when accepted for publication, we will also assist in promoting the work, as we are proud of the manuscripts that we publish. Lastly, we would like our contributors and our readership to know that our close partnerships with patient organizations help us ensure that the vision and scope of our journal supports the needs of field and of the community of people living with Parkinson’s worldwide.