Professor Gary Hime
Head of the Stem cell genetics and Drosophila models of human disease Lab
Principle Coordinator of Stem Cells in Development and Regeneration
Read more about Gary on his Find an Expert page
What are your research interests/background?
I have had a long-standing interest in developmental biology since my PhD at the University of Adelaide. I have primarily used Drosophila melanogaster as a research organism due to the extraordinary tools available to manipulate gene expression, conduct lineage tracing, follow endogenous expression and tag proteins. My first exposure to this field of research was in my own studies as an undergraduate when our class discussed how does a single cell zygote become a complex multicellular organism. I have been fascinated by the concepts of regeneration and differentiation ever since I began studies on stem cells in Drosophila as a CJ Martin Fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Margaret Fuller in the Department of Developmental Biology at Stanford University. My recent studies have focussed on stem cells found in adult organs of the reproductive and digestive tracts. These cells receive multiple influences from their environment and we still do not understand how all the signals are integrated for tissue homeostasis and repair. We also now know that many of the genes that are dysregulated in human diseases have orthologs in Drosophila and that analysis of gene function in a genetically tractable model can inform us of how genes function in humans and provide mechanisms for identification of new therapies for disease.
What attracted you to teaching?
One of the things that I enjoy most about Science is talking about it with other people. I have never found teaching to be a one-way street of me providing information to students but I have learnt much about my own discipline and other areas of Science from my involvement in teaching. I obtain a sense of great satisfaction when a student becomes enthused about a topic in our classes. Organisms have developed highly complex and related mechanisms to solve problems related to their lifestyles and to see the wonder in another person’s eyes when they seek to understand these mechanisms is a true joy to behold.
Why is it important to educate students on interdisciplinary topics such as stem cells and emerging technologies?
Society now has a much greater capacity to treat disease, reduce poverty, revolutionise agriculture and protect the environment than ever before in human history. We also have greater capacity to destroy the systems that sustain us. I therefore think it is crucial that students have a good understanding of what is possible in modern medicine and science, how we can be deceived, what are our responsibilities and where discoveries may influence the future wellbeing of us and the environment. This understanding will only come from a multi-dimensional education that encompasses fundamental science, humanities, new technologies and how to apply these disciplines to us and our planet.
How would you describe your approach to teaching?
I try to inspire students to develop a thirst for knowledge. I want students to not only understand the current state of knowledge in a field, but also how we got to that understanding, that is, understand experiments and how they are interpreted. I believe that the research – teaching nexus is vitally important to provide a currency to teaching within the University. The question “Why do we need to know this?” is often underappreciated. Linkage of fundamental biology to development of advances in human and environmental well-being shows us that detailed knowledge informs practical advances. I have found that learning is not a solitary pursuit for many students (or teachers) and integration of group exercises, practical classes, active learning sessions and reciprocal interactions is not only fun and satisfying but seems to achieve a synergy in the classroom that is at the heart of modern teaching and learning.
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