Kaiseal Sarson-Lawrence

“A PhD shouldn’t be your whole life, just a part of it,” according to PhD student Mr Kaiseal Sarson-Lawrence. As well as investigating how blood cell production is controlled, Kaiseal makes time for professional development, social activities and keeping fit.

From malaria to structural biology

Kaiseal first joined the Institute as an Honours student after undertaking a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Melbourne.

“I was attracted by the Institute’s strong international reputation, and many of my lecturers had spoken in glowing terms about the Institute.”
– Kaiseal Sarson-Lawrence

“I had looked at opportunities at several medical research institutes, and I found a project at the Institute studying malaria that interested me, which made up my mind about coming here,” he said.

Kaiseal enjoyed his Honours year, and chose to continue on to PhD studies. His PhD project, supervised by Associate Professor Jeff Babon and Dr Nadia Kershaw, investigates how blood cell development is controlled by cytokines (signalling proteins). “I’m looking at the structures of the membrane receptors that bind cytokines outside immature blood cells, transmitting signals into the cell and impacting how they develop.

“I’ve only recently started so at the moment I’m doing a lot of protein purifications and groundwork to ensure the proteins are behaving as we expect. In the future I will be using X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM) to study the structure of my proteins,” he said.

A supportive environment

Kaiseal said the Institute provides a very supportive environment for students.

“There is a large student cohort and regular social events and personal development opportunities to better prepare you for a career inside or outside of academia.”
– Kaiseal Sarson-Lawrence

“You also get to work with and learn from people who are world leaders in their field and very passionate about what they do,” he said.

“The annual student retreat – run by the Institute’s student associate, WESA – is always a good time. It’s a full day of interesting guest speakers and then a bit of fun in the evening.”

Kaiseal has some advice for students: “it’s important to have things you enjoy doing outside of work to relief stress and take your mind off lab work when it’s not going so well. I’m very into health and fitness so if I’m not in the lab you can probably find me in the gym or out on the soccer field.”

After his PhD, Kaiseal is considering pursuing a career in academia, but first he’d like to take a holiday. “I took time off after Honours and it was probably the best life decision I’ve ever made!”

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