Genetics Otago and the Epigenetics User Group were lucky to be able to host Professor Susan Clark on campus on the 4th and 5th of December. Professor Clark is the Head of the Genomics and Epigenetics Theme at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.
Susan has had a fascinating career which she discussed with a group of postgraduate students over drinks and nibbles in the Staff Club during her visit. Of particular note is her great contribution to the study of DNA methylation through her development and implementation of bisulphite sequencing. The students also had the opportunity to ask questions and gained valuable insight into their own research paths and were encouraged by Prof Clark to always “think outside the box”.
A special meeting of the EUG Hub was held on the 5th of December where Susan gave a talk on Best Practices for validating DNA methylation biomarkers from large scale studies. Leader of the EUG Aniruddha Chatterjee commented that “the topic was very relevant and the discussions very stimulating”.
This was a wonderful way to end the year for our EUG Hub who are hosting a Symposium and Workshop on the 12th and 13th March 2020 (for more information and to register please visit the Events page).
‘“I am really impressed to see the turnout and the enthusiasm and interest here in epigenetics. If I gave this talk in Sydney I am not sure that I would get a similar turnout. ” – Professor Susan Clark.
If you would like to learn more about Professor Clark and her research you can read her biography here.
I came to Dunedin from Hurunui, North Canterbury, but I’ve lived all over the show, from the banks of Lake Ellesmere to Cromwell. In high school I was involved in a restoration project up the Nina Valley in the Lewis Pass, trapping predators like possums, rats, stoats and weasels. Over the seven years I realised trapping and poison are a Band-Aid for a long term challenge – if we’re serious about eradication we need to be innovating new tools. My research project for my Masters in Genetics is looking at a genetic pest control method called “gene drive” and how we could use it to control or eradicate invasive mammal species in New Zealand. Despite current pest control systems our wildlife continue to decline. We can’t keep doing what we’ve done in the past, we have to think outside the box. That’s why I’m interested in genetic pest control technology because it’s a different way of approaching our invasive species problem. It’s not something we can use right now, but imagine where we’d be if we’d implemented it 20 years ago! As researchers we get to mentally challenge ourselves to answer these difficult questions and advance our understanding of the world we live in. I actually sustained a pretty severe brain injury last year when I was hit by a car whilst cycling to uni. This was a big fork in the road and over the course of six months I seriously considered dropping everything and pursuing a career that demands less brain power. But when I look back, what got me through was finding ways to look at the bigger picture and think about how I can best lean on my strengths in order to make a difference!
AND NEWSFLASH: the amazing Anna Clark has just been named as a Blake DOC Ambassador for 2019/20! Fantastic news and well deserved.
AND if that’s not enough for further inspiration from Anna herself, here’s a link to a recent TedxYouth talk she gave recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5U6cbrqW-o
Image and article credit to University of Otago Health Sciences Communications and Anna Clark
Two of the six researchers who have been awarded the University of Otago’s annual Early Career Awards for Distinction in Research are Genetics Otago Members.
Dr Tim Hore (Anatomy) and Dr Erin Macaulay (Pathology) have each recieved $5000 for personal development and membership to the O-Zone Group (a group lead by GO Deputy Director Dr Louise Bicknell, providing networking and collabortation opportunity to early-mid career researchers).
Congratulations Erin and Tim!
More Information from the Otago Bulletin:
Dr Tim Hore (Anatomy)
Brought up on a Maniototo farm, Dr Hore completed secondary school and his undergraduate degree in Dunedin. His PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra was in the rapidly evolving field of epigenetics.
After post-doctoral research at Cambridge, he set up his own epigenetics laboratory in Otago’s Department of Anatomy in 2015. Epigenetic modifications are tiny chemical changes to DNA that act like signposts instructing cellular machinery what to do. His team is working on understanding how this relates to inherited memories.
“I really enjoy the buzz of new understanding, and because of recent technologies in the field of genetics, there is plenty of new understanding up for grabs.”
Dr Erin Macaulay (Pathology)
Originally from Boston, USA, Dr Macaulay completed her PhD in genetics at the University of Otago in 2011. Since 2013 she has been working as a research fellow at the University’s Dunedin-based Department of Pathology, and in August she was appointed as a lecturer in the same department.
Dr Macaulay’s epigenetics research examines both the placenta and cancer growth in an attempt to find commonalities between the two. During early pregnancy the placenta grows like a tumour, invading into the uterine wall to establish a nourishing blood supply for the baby but, unlike a malignant tumour, it knows when to stop.
“I love searching for clues about disease in a healthy tissue that many people just cast aside. Of course we all want to cure cancer, but realistically I do hope my research can contribute a meaningful piece to the cancer puzzle.”
Read the full article here.
Kia ora! Nau mai, haere mai!
Welcome to our new Blog site. This site is here to keep you up to date with the news and events of Genetics Otago and its members. If you are a member of GO already we hope that this site will act as a space to share your news, house useful resources and create a sense of community.
If you are asking who is GO? Head over to the About Us section, have a read and if you think you fit into our community you will find a link to sign up to our mailing list.
You will find contact details for key GO people should you need to ask any questions or locate us in the Contact Us tab. There is also information about our Tech Hubs, where you are able to sign up to any of the hubs that are relevant to your research and log in to the hub portals if you are already a member.
If you are a GO member and have something exciting to share or a story you want to post let us know, we would love to feature you in our next post!
Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei
The 28th of July saw the first Genetics Otago Postgraduate Retreat for almost a decade. Dunedin didn’t disappoint with the weather and postgrads from anatomy to zoology, along with several staff members spent a beautiful day at Orokonui Ecosanctuary.
The formal part of the day began with a session of tips and tricks for travelling to and presenting at conferences presented by Dr Tanya Major. It was great to hear about the importance of networking and participants enjoyed practising their ‘elevator pitch’.
A panel of academics visited and held a Q and A session discussing their academic career in genetics. The variety of panellists, that spanned from fresh post-docs through to PIs, gave valuable insight into the charm and challenges that come with an academic career and students enjoyed hearing their personal experiences.
After a great lunch in the Orokonui Café, we all enjoyed getting out into nature and exploring the ecosanctuary. Feedback on the venue was only positive with many emphasizing that it was great to get away from campus and be outside.
The final session for the day saw a visit from Jo Budai from the Career Development Centre who talked about CV writing and job applications. This was followed by an informal discussion about some of the struggles and issues students have faced during their study and where to go for help.
Everyone who attended thought that it was a worthwhile event and would love to see it happen on a more regular basis. The day wouldn’t have been possible without the huge effort put in by our student rep, Anežka Hoskin, to organise everything. So thank you Anežka and thank you, everyone, who came along and helped make the day such a success.
Another year and another round of Health Research Council Grants to a number of our members!
Genetics Otago would like to congratulate those members on their success. We are proud to let you all know that these successes make up 20% of all University of Otago gained HRC grants for 2019 and 11% of all HRC grants awarded in this round!
A large number of GO members will be working on these projects over the next few years and we look forward to updates on their work.
GO Member HRC Grants 2019:
- Associate Professor Stephanie Hughes – Dissecting the role of glial lysosome function in neurodegeneration, $1,199,417, 36 months.
- Associate Professor Julia Horsfield – A novel genetic mechanism in acute myeloid leukaemia, $1,177,919, 36 months.
- Professor Tony Merriman – Addressing clinical questions in gout using genetic data, $1,198,120, 36 months.
- Dr Anna Pilbrow – A precision medicine approach to improving heart disease outcomes, $1,193,680, 36 months.
- Dr James Ussher – The role of microbial viability in regulating MAIT cell activation, $1,191,634, 36 months.
- Associate Professor Logan Walker – Impact of germline copy number variation on endometrial cancer risk, $1,145,197, 36 months.
Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei