Known for his life-altering research into stress reduction and creator of the therapeutic spray ‘SerenaScent™’, renowned UQ researcher Dr Nick Lavidis is ‘paying forward’ his success by giving to UQ to support research students.

With nine PhD students currently under his supervision within the School of Biomedical Sciences, Dr Lavidis sees their daily financial struggles first hand, which motivates him to give to scholarships that help with research and the cost of living.

"I can see the difficulty that some students are going through to support themselves,” Dr Lavidis said.

"Often I see students who absolutely love and are truly devoted to their research studies, but find it difficult to focus on their goals due to financial burdens.

"You can’t just stand by and see that happen, especially if you can help. That prompts me to do something about it.”

Dr Lavidis’ important research focuses on an issue many people in the community face every day without understanding its dangerous effects; stress.

"People in everyday life, even those with no serious health issues, can be stressed without knowing it, we get used to it,” Dr Lavidis said.

"That is the problem, it is a silent killer. Stress is a silent and unnoticeable way of reducing your lifespan."

For almost three decades, Dr Lavidis' research has focused on the nervous system and how it adapts to environmental influences. Sometimes this adaptation is beneficial, but often it is detrimental, and his research aims to better understand the mechanisms responsible for this regulation.

“A study showed that about 70 percent of visits to GPs are for disorders or diseases that could have been prevented had stress been reduced in the patient’s life,” Dr Lavidis said.

He and his research partners are examining the effects of plant-derived odours to reduce the effects of chronic stress. SerenaScent™ replicates chemicals that are released in rainforests and even in freshly cut grass, which in turn helps the brain manage stress.

Dr Lavidis said he first had the idea for SerenaScent™ on a memorable family trip to Yosemite National Park in the United States more than 20 years ago.

"Three days in the park felt like a three-month holiday,” he said.

"I didn’t realise at the time that it was the actual combination of feel good chemicals released by the pine trees, the lush vegetation and the grass that made me feel so relaxed.

"Years later my neighbour commented on the wonderful smell of cut grass after I had mowed the lawn and it all started to click into place.

"I came from a neuroscience background studying the mechanism of neurotransmission, and all of a sudden I am looking at aromatherapy,” he said.

“I didn’t plan to go down that path, it was just circumstances coupled with noted observations that directed my research. Nature opened a window and allowed me to take a look outside. I just followed what nature was telling me.”

Combining his passion for research with his desire to help students, Dr Lavidis and his students are truly providing a benefit in our community. Such generosity has encouraged former PhD students to support scholarships for new students thus establishing a legacy that in the end benefits the community.