Dr Catherine Palmer
Research Fellow, Department of Biochemistry & Pharmacology and the Bio21 Institute
What does your research focus on and why is it important?
My field of research is characterising the import of proteins into mitochondria in health and disease. Mitochondria are essential organelles which have roles in a wide variety of cellular processes including energy generation, metabolism and cell death. Over 1000 proteins contained within mitochondria are encoded by nuclear genes and must be sorted into one of the four mitochondrial sub-compartments. This essential process is carried out by multimeric protein machineries. When these molecular machines are dysfunctional, the health of mitochondria is compromised and can cause a variety of human diseases. Understanding how these machineries function is crucial to developing treatment strategies for mitochondrial import diseases for which there is currently no effective treatment.
What was your first job in Biomedical Sciences?
My first job in Biomedical sciences was as a post-doctoral researcher, continuing the project I worked on in my PhD. This enabled me to publish another 2 manuscripts stemming from my work. Subsequent to this, I had my daughter and took some time off, then returned to work in a facilities support position training users on microscopes. I then later returned to research at Bio21 where I currently am located.
What did you learn from your biggest mistake?
In science I don’t think there really are mistakes, and this makes it a unique field to work in. At every stage you can learn something from what you are doing, and while there may be setbacks you can always apply the lessons you have learned.
In finding my place in science, I think my biggest mistake was not considering a broad range of options when looking at degrees to apply for upon finishing high school. I had a very narrow view of where I wanted to go because I was comfortable with the institution. However, this resulted in me doing a degree I wasn’t really invested in. I then came to science later as a mature age student and loved it, and could’ve reached this position much sooner if I had been more open when applying for universities after year 12.