From international student to building a new research group

Our Roving Reporter Clare Watson chats to Shu Yang, Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Macquarie University, Sydneyabout her research career journey which started in Beijing.

Clare: Shu, thanks for joining Franklin Women. Let’s start with your current role: you’ve established yourself as a senior postdoctoral research fellow at Macquarie University. What specifically are you researching?

sy_fw_work-image Shu: I started working at Macquarie University as a senior postdoc researcher in 2013 but I’ve been working part-time since I had my first son in 2015. Our team has been working on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease. In Australia, ALS is known as motor neurone disease (MND). Currently, there are more than 2000 people who are living with MND in Australia. This is a really devastating disease and currently there is no effective treatment or known cure.

Our team is comprised of a few geneticists and a few functional cell biologists. I’m currently leading the cell biology work of our lab. We have established a biobank in collaboration with neurologists at Macquarie University Hospital on campus. We have been collecting patient samples for analysis (gene mutation screening) for many years.

My role in this project is to use the known gene mutations identified from ALS patients as a tool to try to uncover the biology behind this disease – the functional consequence of those mutations – using cell and animal models. My research has strongly suggested that there are multiple biological pathways that are implicated in ALS.

Clare: You completed your bachelor’s degree at Capital Normal University, Beijing, before moving to Australia to the University of Queensland for your PhD. How did you go about securing this position?

Shu: I was born and raised in China and [after my undergraduate studies] I decided that I wanted to complete a postgraduate degree overseas. I was accepted by University of Queensland for a Masters by research degree and at the end of the two years I was given the opportunity to extend this Masters degree to a PhD. More...