For this month’s eChook we asked a number of our students, past and present, to tell us their current and future plans, post PhD. The following four researchers explain, in their own words, how their CRC experience has allowed them to progress their career plans.
Dr Kylie Hewson
After I completed my PhD in mid-2012, I worked part-time at The University of Melbourne Avian Pathology labs designing and optimising molecular diagnostic assays for various poultry and avian viruses. In Feb 2013, we moved back to sunny Queensland to be nearer to family and I have continued being involved in a number of poultry projects while I look after our young son.
I am still employed by The University of Melbourne to complete the final report for a three-year RIRDC project that investigated avian nephritis virus in Australian chickens. I am also contracted to Poultry CRC to edit and update the Poultry Hub website, and I have also been appointed as the technical advisor for (AECL’s) Hensupport; an online diagnostic tool for the layer industry.
I am also running a public education project with Dr Susan Bibby which aims to establish a poultry display at various research institute open days around Australia. The displays highlight careers available within the poultry industry and the opportunities available at each institute. They have become an important avenue for discussing poultry with, and educating, the general public, particularly with regards to common myths and current issues.
I have established and designed my own website (poultrypics.com), which is an image repository for the poultry industry. This is a recent project, and I am compiling images from many sources within the industry with the vision that images of all things poultry will be available for anyone to view and use.
Ms Penny Steer
With my country upbringing and agricultural background, I have always been keen to pursue a profession that is in some way linked with the primary industries. After acquiring a Bachelor of Applied Science at the University of Queensland, my career was initially based in the manufacture of some novel vaccines for production and companion animals, with a strong foundation in quality control and quality assurance. But I was eager to pursue my real passion – animal disease research – and was fortunate to attain the position of research assistant to Associate Professor Amir Noormohammadi at the Faculty of Veterinary Science at The University of Melbourne. Here I have worked predominantly with fowl adenovirus, the causative pathogen of inclusion body hepatitis outbreaks in broiler chickens, and on the development of new diagnostic techniques for the detection and typing of various avian pathogens.
I am now nearing completion of my PhD, which has investigated the virulence and cross-protection between fowl adenovirus field strains, and the genetic basis for differences between the strains. I will shortly commence as Laboratory Operations Manager at the Asia Pacific Centre for Animal Health, based at the university’s Faculty of Veterinary Science in Werribee. In this role I will be utilising my strong background in quality management and regulatory affairs, while maintaining both my involvement in avian disease research and contact with the wider Australian poultry industry. Down the track I hope to establish a business focussing on collaborative research and innovations to benefit both the science and primary industries of Australia.
Mr Jim Shini
Jim is researching fatty liver haemorrhagic syndrome (FLHS), a metabolic disease that is associated with significant production losses and mortality in caged layer flocks. At present, there is no clear understanding of the factor(s) that cause this disease in commercial flocks.
I am currently still working on my PhD. My next milestone is “Thesis Review” and I am planning to deliver it during November. After that I will know my due date for final submission. Studies in my project were initiated to evaluate the prevalence of FLHS in Australian flocks (housed in different production systems) and improve understanding of the aetiology and pathogenesis of FLHS in laying hens. The long-term outcome for industry is to develop strategies to control and prevent FLHS in commercial flocks.
In addition to his studies, Jim is currently working for the Australian Agricultural College Corporation (AACC). As a poultry industry expert, Jim was the major player in the development of Certificate III in Poultry Production level units for the AACC, utilising Poultry CRC educational resources.
Recently, the Certificate III in Poultry Production was added to the AACC scope of registration. The AACC now has the capacity to deliver training to broiler and layer industry staff in Queensland.
Interested parties can contact Jim at AACC directly (Jim.Shini@aacc.edu.au or 0408 792 667) for more information on the training program.
Mr Andrew Cutting
My PhD sits under the Health and Welfare programme in the sex determination project with Tim Doran (CSIRO) and Craig Smith (MCRI). I am approaching the end of my studies and finishing up the last few experiments before I dedicate all my time to writing. I initially focused on the role of non-coding RNAs (such as microRNAs) and their regulatory role during embryonic gonad development.
Now I am also investigating the role of the anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) during embryonic development of the testis and male reproductive system. It is assumed that AMH plays the same role during embryonic sexual development in the chick as it does in mammals. However, this has never been properly demonstrated, and evidence exists that challenges this assumption. We believe AMH may have testis determining roles, and therefore a much more central role in chick testis development compared to mammals.
DMRT1 and SOX9 are heavyweights in the male sex determining pathway, and we already know that their relationship with AMH is slightly different to that in mammals, so we are manipulating DMRT1 and SOX9 and measuring the effect on AMH to get a clearer idea on how they all interact in the chicken gonad. AMH may also be regulated by microRNAs, so we are inhibiting specific microRNAs that are predicted to regulate AMH to see if AMH is affected. We have also identified and characterised the chicken AMH receptor, the first avian AMH receptor to be discovered, and demonstrated its regulation as part of the male sex determining pathway.
I am fascinated by evolutionary and developmental biology, yet I am unsure where this fascination will take me!