Joy Liu

PhD student Ms Joy Liu
PhD student Joy Liu has contributed to many aspects of Institute research through undergraduate placements, as a research assistant, and as an Honours student – for which she earnt the 2017 Colman Speed Medal.

PhD student Ms Joy Liu
PhD student Joy Liu is investigating new ways
to treat multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells

Joy is now investigating new ways to treat multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells. Myeloma cells are unregulated versions of plasma cells that normally live in your bone marrow and produce antibodies. However, in myeloma, these cells abnormally proliferate and, because of their location, can cause painful bone disease.

“I’m using microscopy techniques to watch how the myeloma cells interact with the bone environment and vice versa, all in real-time,” Joy explained.

“If we can better understand these mechanisms, we might be able to find targets either in the cancer cells or the bone cells that might stop myeloma development, drug resistance or bone disease.”

Exploring research at the Institute

Joy’s PhD project is not her first placement at the Institute. After completing a Cancer Council Victoria Studentship at the Institute during her undergraduate studies at The University of Melbourne, Joy completed an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) placement.

That turned into three years working as a Research Assistant with Professor Marnie Blewitt’s laboratory.

Joy then completed her Honours degree under the supervision of Associate Professor Aaron Jex and Dr Kelly Rogers, for which she was awarded the Colman Speed Honours Award in 2017. Her project combined imaging and bioinformatics to investigate the biology of the parasitic worm Ascaris, which infects more than one billion people worldwide.

For her PhD, supervised by Associate Professor Edwin Hawkins, Joy can spend full days based at the microscope, acquiring images of the bone marrow, while other days might be focused on image analysis, reading papers, laboratory meetings and molecular work to validate results.

A great place to learn

Joy said being a student at the Institute was a great opportunity.

“At the Institute, students are expected to push their own projects forward, and really know their stuff,” Joy said. “At the same time, everyone is extremely supportive and helpful, so you feel like you can explore new ideas.

“You are actively encouraged to not only be an excellent scientist, but also a good person.”


Video: 3D rendering of the head of Ascaris, a parasitic worm which resides in the intestines, which Joy studied during her Honours year at the Institute.

Video credit: Mark Scott, Aaron Jex, Joy Liu.