IMB biologist cell-abrates love of learning

16 December 2020

A future making breakthroughs in inflammation research and sharing knowledge with the next generation of scientists at UQ are the targets for newly minted PhD Amy Chan, from IMB's Inflammasome lab.

Dr Chan’s long-term relationship with the University began in 2011 and spans a Bachelor of Science, Honours, and now a doctorate. 

And with a passion for science communication and education, she’d like it to stay that way.

“I love this university and would definitely like to stay on and come back and teach at some point,” Dr Chan said. 

Delving into the inflammasomeDr Amy Chan is researching the inflammasome

“My PhD was to figure out how a certain type of inflammasome works, how it turns on and functions. 

“Inflammasomes are basically big platforms inside your cells which can coordinate inflammation. 

“So it can sense bacteria or viruses and once it senses whatever triggers it, it can switch on, and then it’ll coordinate an inflammatory response, which means that you get a fever, you have pain or swelling.

“Inflammation is actually a main driver of different human diseases like various cancers and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and also infectious diseases.”

The research could one day lead to therapeutics for some of these diseases.

A passion for science engagement

Dr Amy Chan is engaging young people with science.When not in the lab, Dr Chan spent her time volunteering with the Wonder of Science program teaching kids, participating in the Pint of Science program and winning awards such as the 2018 Women in STEM prize for People’s Choice.

“I find volunteering cathartic because I can actually get out of the lab and stop thinking about whatever I am doing, and because it’s fun,” she said.  

“There are days when I come out of the lab and nothing has worked, but then kids say, ‘bacteria, that’s so cool’. 

“I think every scientist starts off with wanting to do cool things and make discoveries and then you get bogged down by the system, but it’s a nice reminder sometimes that this is what I wanted to do when I was little.” 

Next step in Dr Chan’s burgeoning career is a post-doctoral research fellowship at IMB and she’s also been accepted in the UQ Future Leaders program.

'Tough but worthwhile'

And while she concedes the PhD experience was tough, Dr Chan said it was worthwhile.

“I think this university is putting out very good, high-quality research and I want to be a part of that.

“When I was a child I was told that science wasn’t a viable career pathway and so I was considering medicine and that was my career trajectory until I came to UQ.

“I have always loved science, and I realised I am actually pretty good at this, and along the way I discovered from the scientists around me that it is a career and can lead to many different places.”

Maybe right back to where it all started nearly 10 years ago at UQ.