Meet Jing Deng

A supportive culture, access to cutting-edge research facilities and collaboration with researchers at the forefront of their fields are three ingredients Ms Jing Deng said were helping her Honours studies.

A supportive culture

Jing undertook Bachelor of Science studies majoring in genetics at the University of Melbourne, as an international student from China. She said she chose to come to the Institute for Honours after attending our Student Open Day.

I was impressed by how enthusiastic and friendly everyone was,” she said. “This, plus the Institute’s strong reputation in medical research, made it the ideal place to do Honours.

Jing said she felt like she was part of a family at the Institute. “Before I gave my first oral presentation, the PhD students and postdocs in my research division gave me lots of helpful advice. This gave me more confidence for the presentation, but also gave me a sense of belonging – I know people will be around to support me when I need it.

“Every day I catch up with members of my lab for morning tea – an important ritual at the Institute! This gives us a chance to discuss how our experiments are going and receive advice from others.”

Jing and her Honours classmates receive financial support from the Institute’s Alan Harris Scholarship, a $5000 stipend provided to all Honours and eligible Masters students. In addition, Jing was a recipient of the Strathmore Community Bank Honours Prize. “These scholarships really helped with my living costs and I’m very appreciative of the support,” she said.

Understanding cancer

Jing’s Honours project is looking at the links between the rapid cell division that occurs in embryonic development, and the rapid cell division that contributes to cancer formation.

Jing says her research builds on discoveries made in her lab, which is headed by Associate Professor Joan Heath. “Our lab identified a collection of genes that are required for the earliest stages of development. This discovery was made in zebrafish, a commonly used laboratory model,” she said. “My project is to look at one of these genes in intestinal cancers, to see whether it contributes to driving rapid cell division. If this is the case, we think this could lead to a new target for cancer therapies.”

Microscopy is an important technique for Jing’s research, and she has benefitted from access to the Institute’s Centre for Dynamic Imaging. “I’m currently using confocal microscopy to understand the function of my gene of interest, but I’ll soon be moving on to two-photon microscopy to qualitatively and quantitatively investigate a cancer model.”

One of the results I’m proudest of was from my first imaging experiment, when I was able to capture the amazing cellular structure of the intestine. Having access to the right technology is essential for pioneering research.

Once she has finished Honours, Jing would like to work as a research assistant before deciding whether to start a PhD. “I’d like to take a year off from studying to consider my longer-term career plans. I’m also interested in looking for volunteer opportunities for mentoring or tutoring,” she said.

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