Photo:

Vanessa Vaughan

Favourite Thing: I love talking about science! Every opportunity I get, I’m standing up in front of people talking about my research, or talking to students, writing blogs and research papers, discussing the week’s cool science on twitter, or going out with friends to talk about how very cool the Mars rover landing was. I just want everyone to be as excited about science as I am!

My CV

School:

St Philip’s College, Alice Springs (2001-2004)

University:

Deakin University (2006-2009): Bachelor of Science (Forensic Biology, Molecular Biology, Honours)

Work History:

I’ve worked at Deakin University, for an Aboriginal Corpration in Western Australia, and have also done some waitressing and bartending

Employer:

Deakin University

Current Job:

PhD Student

Me and my work

I’m a molecular nutritionist, and my research looks at a muscle wasting syndrome in cancer patients, known as cancer cachexia, and how nutrition may help prevent and treat this condition.

Lots of patients with cancer lose weight and muscle strength due to a condition called cachexia (sounds a bit like ‘Car-kex-ia’). An easy way to think of it is the cancer tells the body to eat all of its own muscle and fat. I’m interested in how our DNA¬† and proteins in our muscles change if we get cachexia, and if we can stop the body making these changes by eating certain types of food. At the moment, I am looking at an oil that comes from fish and krill, and whether that will slow down, or maybe even stop the disappearing muscle!

My Typical Day

Depending on the day, I might read a lot of papers, spend time with my mice, do some experiments, or help other students.

I don’t really have a ‘typical’ day, because the things I do change so often! I will usually start by feeding the cancer cells I grow, to make sure they are growing well and getting the nutrients they need. Then I might weigh and feed mice, or do some experiments to look at how proteins and DNA in muscle change during disease. Some days I will go and visit cancer patients, and others I have to go to classes or lectures to learn about the research other people are doing. I usually finish the day reading new journal articles about research other people in my area have done, and writing up research reports about the work I’ve been doing.

What I'd do with the money

Work with rural & remote schools to bring science to kids who would otherwise miss out.

My family spent a lot of time in schools in remote areas of the Northern Territory, where, unfortunately, there are often no resources for students to learn about science, other than videos or books. I would love to work together with teachers from those schools to organise a program for visiting scientists to talk to students, and show them the hands-on side of science that they would otherwise be unable to experience.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Talkative, Persistent, Procrastinatory

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Flogging Molly

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Abseiling off of Kings Canyon (Northern Territory)

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

To always love my work, a new set of legs (mine are rather injury prone!), and a lifetime supply of avocados.

What did you want to be after you left school?

A conservation ecologist, or a physiotherapist, or a writer.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Mostly for not doing my homework, or talking in class, but otherwise was too interested to muck up.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Recently while visiting a cancer patient, they thanked me for doing research that gave them hope. Single best moment of my science career so far, and gives me hope too.

Tell us a joke.

A neutron goes into a cafe and asks the waitress, “How much for a milkshake?” The waitress replies, “For you, no charge.”

Sports followed

Roller derby, AFL and NRL

Favourite team

Geelong Cats (AFL), South Sydney (NRL).