What attracted you to mito research?
My passion for mitochondrial research began as an undergraduate student where I was lectured by a prominent researcher in the mito community, Dr Diana Stojanovski. Completing my honours year researching mitochondrial disease in the Stojanovski lab, I developed an understanding of the importance of fundamental research for the mito community. Ever since, I have strived to continue my work investigating mitochondrial disease as well as help support the mito community in my efforts outside the laboratory.
What is the focus of your PhD and what do you hope to achieve?
Modern advancements in diagnostic techniques have uncovered hundreds of genes that when non-functional cause mitochondrial disease. However, for many genes, our understanding of them does not extend beyond identification. To develop new and innovative therapeutics, it is essential to first know what these genes are doing normally, and how that changes when they are mutated. My research focuses on these mitochondrial disease genes with unknown functions, especially within the context of mitochondrial protein import.
Mitochondria have biological barriers known as membranes that act as walls, separating the inside of mitochondria from the outside. Many large molecules such as proteins cannot pass through these walls, so machinery exists to move the necessary proteins across these walls into the mitochondria. The failing of this import machinery is a known cause of mitochondrial disease. Through my research I hope to contribute to both our fundamental understanding of how proteins are able to enter the mitochondria, and why subsequent failings of this machinery causes mitochondrial disease. During my PhD, I also plan on attending international scientific conferences to share my research with the global mito community.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Following the completion of my PhD, I aspire to pursue a career in academic research. I hope to complete a post doc internationally, ideally at a prominent and historic mitochondrial lab such as those in Germany, the UK and US. During this time, I wish to explore innovative ideas in mitochondrial biology that push the boundaries of our current knowledge.
What is your vision for the future for people impacted by mito?
I see a future where mito patients have access to modern diagnostic techniques without financial and socioeconomic barriers. I hope that both increased awareness of mito amongst general practitioners and the covering of genomic testing by Medicare will be the driving forces behind this change. I also see advancement in mito research leading to the first personalised medicines, marking a significant step in the drive to develop a cure for mito.
Who are you outside of the lab? (e.g. hobbies, interests, passions)
One of my favourite passtimes outside the lab is to cook. In fact, there is a surprising amount in common between the lab and kitchen. However, despite this, I love the ability to express myself through cooking in a way that I can’t in the lab, preparing and sharing meals with my close friends and family.
When I’m not in the kitchen you’ll find me relaxing playing video games, tending to my ever-growing jungle of plants or playing guitar. You’ll rarely find me without my headphones listening to music, playing anything and everything I can get my hands on.