Spotlight on:
Research Possibilities

The Master of Biomedical Science

Take a look behind the scenes  -  here are some key insights from just a few of our world leading research experts who are working with the next generation of biomedical scientists, commercial, industry and healthcare professionals.

Research Possibilities

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Research Possibilities with experts A/Prof Peter Crouch, Dr Maria Di Biase, A/Prof Vicki Lawson, A/Prof Ben Parker, Prof Laura Mackay, Dr Elena Schneider-Futschik and Prof Alastair Stewart.

Q&A with our Research Experts

  • Associate Professor Peter Crouch

    Meet A/Prof Peter Crouch

    Laboratory Head, Department of Anatomy & Physiology

    Describe your area of research

    The focus of our research is of the causes of neuronal death within the central nervous system. Neuronal death is the unequivocal reason why people with conditions such as Motor Neuron Disease (MND) and Alzheimer's disease suffer debilitating symptoms - but the causes remain unknown.

    In Australia, on average two people die from MND and two people are diagnosed with MND each day

    [MND Australia]

    Image: human spinal cord [Crouch Lab]

    When did you develop your area of interest?

    My work on degenerative diseases of the central nervous system became a passion during my first stint as a post-doc where I was exposed to an amazing community of scientists at the University of Melbourne who working on various aspects of diseases such as Alzheimer's and MND. What resonated most was that the team was working on fundamental discoveries all the way through to clinical assessment of new drug candidates. They were doing some very impactful work and I wanted to be part of it.

    Dementia, which is primarily caused by Alzheimer's disease, is the second leading cause of death in Australia.

    [Australian Alzheimer’s Research Foundation]

    What are the advantages of studying the Masters in the Biomedical Precinct?

    Students might work in a lab striving to develop new treatments for MND, but the lab across the road will be developing machine-learning technology for tumour detection. Masters students are fully immersed in this research community and will see first-hand how synergies across seemingly disparate fields of research can produce truly innovative solutions.

    What are the challenges and triumphs you see in your Masters students?

    The universal challenge involves transitioning from undergraduate studies to what is essentially a full-time job. The workload is not insurmountable but it is significant. And the triumphs are worth it - they come from recognising that you're contributing to something worthwhile, and that after years of study you can see how that all the things you've learnt can help make things a little better for those who need it.

    Learn more

  • Dr Maria di Biase

    Meet Dr Maria Di Biase

    Laboratory Head, Department of Anatomy & Physiology

    Describe your area of research

    The Stem Cell Disease Modelling Lab, co-headed by Professor Alice Pébay and myself, focuses on the study of human pluripotent stem cells for modelling neurodevelopment and neurodegenerative diseases. We can now generate stem cells from adult tissue, and these “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPSCs) represent a powerful disease modelling tool.

    Which community are you helping through your research?

    Mental illness is a global burden and many scientists across the world are working toward a better understanding of mental illness in the hope to develop new strategies for prevention and treatment. Advances in genetics and neuroscience mean we are better placed now more than ever to decipher the complex biology of these disorders. The School of Biomedical Sciences is at the forefront this work.

    Schizophrenia affects one in a hundred people in Australia

    [Better Health]

    What do you like most about working with and supervising Master of Biomedical Science students?

    As a supervisor, I thoroughly enjoy helping students carve out their own path by creating customised goals and skill-development plans, tailored to the student and nurturing skillsets in areas that will help them on their own unique journey.

    What mentorship, peer support opportunities and networking events are available to Masters students in your laboratory?

    We actively foster an environment that encourages students to explore and establish meaningful connections through internal and external collaborations. We also encourage participation in conferences, enabling students to engage and network with a range of experts.

    All students under my supervision receive mentoring to help them publish in top-rank journals, where they can serve as first author. They also receive mentorship to enhance their presentation skills and use these to present their work in key biological psychiatry meetings, where they receive feedback from experts in their fields.

    Our students are encouraged to think beyond academia - we believe that the power of students' ideas and discoveries should not be confined solely to academic circles.

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  • Associate Professor Vicki Lawson

    Meet A/Prof Vicki Lawson

    Laboratory Head, Department of Microbiology & Immunology

    Describe your area of research

    My research group is investigating neurodegeneration in the enteric and central nervous system with a focus on Prion and Parkinson’s Disease and potential role in long COVID and working to understanding how protein misfolding causes neuronal injury and death in these diseases.

    One in 308 Australians live with Parkinson's Disease and there are 37 new cases diagnosed every day

    [Parkinson's Australia]

    Image: cells in the myenteric ganglia of the enteric nervous system (Lawson Lab)

    What has been one of your great achievements recently?  

    Bringing together a team of scientists, clinicians, neuroscientists and virologists to understand the neurological effect of SARS-CoV-2.

    Why is 'Curiosity' such a key word?

    Research requires you step beyond the textbook, to look beyond what you’ve been told and wonder what’s next, to question why and then be prepared to look. This curiosity is the essence of science.

    Why should prospective students choose to do the Master of Biomedical Science at the University of Melbourne?

    The Master of Biomedical Science allows you to be curious and ask questions and provides access to the facilities and expertise to answer those questions. The richness of the biomedical research community in the precinct and world class hospitals and medical research institutes nearby, is unparalleled.

    Learn more

  • Associate Professor Ben Parker

    Meet A/Prof Ben Parker

    Laboratory Head, Department of Anatomy & Physiology

    Describe your area of research

    I specialise in the exciting field of proteomics which uses mass spectrometry to measure the entire complement of proteins within a cell, tissue or biological fluid. This technique enables us to identify biomarkers for disease - it can be used to discover new drug targets or it can be used to understand which proteins are required for normal healthy development.

    There are a number of diseases that involve defective muscle metabolism like sarcopenia or cachexia, cardiomyopathies and Type 2 diabetes

    What particular events have inspired you?

    Genomics is old school, proteomics is the new kid on the block. The last 10 years have seen proteomics technologies hit the big time. Every year the tech gets better and better - it’s the most rapidly advancing field in life sciences.

    What research speciality do you work with Masters students on?

    Our team uses proteomics to understand the underlying mechanisms of health and disease. We study the molecular changes that occur during exercise and what goes wrong during the onset of metabolic disorders such as diabetes. Our goal is to develop exercise mimetics that may be used to treat various diseases.

    Image: A/Prof Ben Parker in the lab

    Why should prospective students choose to do the Master of Biomedical Science at the University of Melbourne?

    We have the most advanced mass spectrometry facility in Melbourne with several world-leading and cutting edge technologies for proteomics, metabolomics and lipidomics. Becoming specialised in these fields will open countless opportunities in academic research, big pharma therapeutic development, or in hundreds of diagnostic or prognostic laboratories around the world.

    Learn more

  • Professor Laura Mackay

    Meet Prof Laura Mackay

    Laboratory Head, Department of Microbiology & Immunology

    Describe your area of research

    The Mackay Group studies memory T cell responses, with a focus on the signals that control tissue-resident memory T cell differentiation, and a view to harness these cells to develop new treatments against infection, cancer, and autoimmune conditions.

    Tissue-resident memory T cells (known as TRM cells) are a type of immune cell found in body tissues that have been shown to be critical for immune protection against viral infections and solid tumours

    [Doherty Institute]

    What particular event inspired you?

    The onset of cancer immunotherapy  – which has gone from ‘the laboratory’ through to life-saving treatments within my lifetime.

    Who are some of the world leading institutes you have collaborated with in the biomedical precinct?

    The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre Alliance (VCCC), the Victorian Cancer BioBank (VCB) based at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Austin Health, and many others.

    What are some of the cutting edge technologies and equipment your Masters students get access to?

    We use CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology, high-dimensional flow cytometry, advanced immunofluorescence microscopy, two-photon live imaging and diverse models of generating immune responses, to name a few.

    What future possibilities are available to your Masters students?

    Our Masters students have the opportunity to pursue a range of pathways following their study: to continue their passions for research and undertake a PhD, to apply the skills from their Masters to a career in industry or science communication, or to take their diverse skillset to contribute to another field entirely.

    What advice would you give to your younger self?

    Science is a more creative career than many assume it to be and requires curiosity and perseverance - so explore the creativity afforded by research, seek mentors who will support and inspire you, and to embrace setbacks as an opportunity for advancing knowledge and personal growth.

    Learn more

  • Dr Elena Schneider-Futschik

    Meet Dr Elena Schneider-Futschik

    Laboratory Head, Department of Biochemistry & Pharmacology

    Describe your area of research

    The approval of modulator drugs has been a breakthrough for cystic fibrosis (CF). This success has created the challenge that increasing numbers of women with CF are now confronted with how to proceed with these drugs during pregnancy.

    In our lab we focus on understanding pharmacology in respiratory diseases such as CF, including during lung infection and pregnancy, and use multidisciplinary approaches to make fundamental advances in drug treatment.

    Lung disease and lung cancer affects almost one in three Australians, while one in twenty-five Australians carry the cystic fibrosis (CF) gene

    [Lung Foundation Australia]

    Which community are you helping through your research?

    We are the only centre in Australia that allows for drug monitoring of cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) modulators and we are able to collaborate on a variety of personalised medicine studies. With our unique preclinical models, we are able to investigate how drugs move and act in the body, especially during ‘extreme’ situations such as acute exacerbations, chronic inflammation or pregnancy.

    Image:  Dr Elena Schneider-Futschik in the lab

    Why should prospective students choose to do the Master of Biomedical Science at the University of Melbourne?

    We have developed preclinical models that can be translated to patient cohorts. This allows our students to focus of research on areas of unmet need and undertake translational research with the end goal to influence new health interventions are embedded in health practice.

    Learn more

  • Professor Alastair Stewart

    Meet Prof Alastair Stewart

    Laboratory Head, Department of Biochemistry & Pharmacology

    Describe your area of research

    We are looking at new ways of studying chronic lung and other diseases with body-on-a-chip technologies which allow new drugs to be evaluated in medium term tissue injury and repair responses. These new technologies use human cells to construct micro-tissues from patients with asthma, COPD or lung fibrosis.

    One in nine Australians are affected by Asthma and Asthma mortality rates are higher for people living in remote or lower socioeconomic areas, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

    [Asthma Australia]

    When did you develop your area of interest?

    I was fascinated by the drugs my father, who was an anaesthetist, used to put patients to sleep. I was also personally challenged by a life-threatening episode of asthma which led me to later focus on lung health.

    Which community are you helping through your research?

    I was involved in bio-banking project on thunderstorm asthma. This is one of a number of clinical collaborations our lab engages with that impacts community health advice. The risk factors for thunderstorm asthma are now better understood. This has resulted in improved public health measures - immediately before the hayfever season and throughout the year.

    What research speciality do you work with Masters students on?

    We take the time to develop an original question with our Masters students related to mechanopharamacology where the (extra)cellular biomechanics are controlled to learn how these forces impact on pharmacological control of cell length, shape and motility.

    Learn more

Want to know more?

Here's everything else you need to know about research projects on offer, potential supervisors, planning your course and how to enrol in the Master of Biomedical Science.

Master of Biomedical Science spotlight series

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