Connecting with Stem Cell Conversations

The Centre for Stem Cell Systems recently started up Stem Cell Conversations, a weekly drop in for stem cell researchers to share insights into latest research and how to master working from home in academia, hosted on Zoom. Read about the first three Conversations.

Staying connected is now more important than ever as the University of Melbourne transitioned to a virtual campus in response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Centre for Stem Cell Systems is working hard to create an online community for our stem cell network and recently started up Stem Cell Conversations, a weekly drop in for stem cell researchers to share insights into latest research and how to master working from home in academia, hosted on Zoom.

Our first two Conversations featured students and early career researchers from around the stem cell network and were moderated by Professor Megan Munsie.

Nadia Rajab from the Wells Lab and CSIRO synthetic biology future science platform and Dr Rita Leitoguinho, Research Officer at the Blood Development group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) presented the inaugural Conversation and brought energy and enthusiasm to their talks. Nadia and Rita discussed the challenges and opportunities in using iPSC-derived blood cells in research, as well as their transition to working from home.

“While it’s a shame to not be running my wet lab experiments, I’m finding that this is a good time to explore ideas I’ve had at the back of my head and read and write papers” said Rita.

Upskilling during this time was a sentiment echoed by Sean Wilson from the Kidney Regeneration Lab at MCRI who spoke about his recent transition from the wet laboratory to data science in the second Stem Cells Conversation talk. “When learning a new skill like coding, set yourself small goals and use your personal interests to learn” recommended Sean.

Sean Wilson was joined by Dr Lizzi Mason  from the Hogan Lab at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to share her journey into bioinformatics. “There is a steep learning curve - persevere and be kind to yourself” said Lizzi.

“It’s important to fund yourself a mentor and also surround yourself with your peers – they will help you succeed” Lizzi concluded.

The third Stem Cell Conversation was presented by Professor Gary Hime Group Head of the Hime laboratory: Stem cell genetics and Drosophila models of human disease.

Gary shared an insight into his research, including an evolutionary perspective of stem cells, the challenges and opportunities that come with combining research with teaching, and answered some thoughtful questions from students and ECRs.

Following a short poll of the 40 – 50 participants from over 15 laboratories around the University that attend each week, 90% felt more connected to the stem cell community through the Stem Cell Conversations talks.

“These talks really emphasise the importance of connection. I love seeing everyone’s face again and hearing their amazing ideas” remarked Rita.

A big thank you to Professors Megan Munsie and Christine Wells for moderating the Stem Cell Conversations.

Stem Cell Conversations are held weekly on Wednesday, from 11am – 11:30am. Would you like to join the conversation? Email the Stem Cell Conversations coordinator Helen Braybrook (helen.braybrook@unimelb.edu.au) for more details.

Article written by Helen Braybrook

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Helen Braybrook

helen.braybrook@unimelb.edu.au