30 Jan 2017

CCS Doctoral Student Profile - Maria Selvadurai

PhD and combined degree
student Maria Selvadurai
by Eliza Watson

Maria Selvadurai is a PhD student in the Platelet and Thrombosis Lab where she is supervised by Dr Justin Hamilton. She studied a Science degree majoring in Pathology and Biochemistry before completing Honours and starting a combined PhD/Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery.

Can you tell me a bit about your project?

Our lab works on identifying and characterising novel targets for new anti-platelet therapies [Ed. inhibiting thrombus or clot formation] and I’m working on a target called PI-3 kinase C2-alpha. Our lab has previously shown that when we knock down this gene in mice it has an antithrombotic effect. We’ve recently developed a pharmacological inhibitor of this protein, and we’ve shown that in human blood it has an anti-thrombotic effect. The aim of my project is to figure out the mechanism by which inhibiting or knocking down this protein has an anti-platelet effect.

What have you enjoyed most about doing your PhD?

My project involves a lot of different labs. We’ve collaborated with a group in France, so I spent a lot of last year [2015] over there. I also do a lot of electron microscopy work out in Clayton at the new EM facility at the moment, and I do some microfluidics at RMIT, so I’ve been able to work with a lot of different people, which is cool.

I saw that you also did a Diploma of Languages in French during your undergrad, did you get to speak a lot of French while you were there?

After my undergrad even though I studied the Diploma of Languages, I couldn’t really speak French fluently so I really wanted to go over there and live there and immerse myself in the language. So I was really lucky in that everyone spoke French in the lab I was working in, because in a lot of research labs people speak English. So it was perfect for me because I was really immersed in the language and picked a lot of things up.

A lot of the scientific terms are similar, so that wasn’t too bad. The first week though was a lot of basic vocab, like how to say bench or platelet, but once I picked that up it was pretty easy.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like doing outdoorsy stuff, I like going walking or hiking up in the Dandenongs or a bit further away. When I have extended amounts of spare time I like to go travelling.

Where’s your favourite place that you’ve visited?

My favourite place that I’ve been is actually Wilson’s Prom. I really like it there and it’s close to home. It’s just so peaceful and gorgeous. But for travelling, Europe’s awesome because there are so many countries all close together so you can experience a whole lot of different cultures without moving too far.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

When I was four I read a book called “Simon goes to the doctor” and I wanted to be a doctor! And then when I grew up I wasn’t really sure, so for a long time I was tossing up between doing research and being a clinician, because I thought I could impact more people doing research, rather than being an actual doctor. But now I’m doing a combined program, hoping to eventually become a Clinician-Scientist, so I guess I’m doing what I wanted to do when I was little, but it was a bit of a winding path to get here!
The Hamilton Lab at ACBD. R: Maria Selvadurai

How are you finding the combined degree?

The way it works is that you do the medicine and PhD parts separately, so at the moment I’m doing the PhD part because to actually combine them would be a lot! I’m enjoying the research part but I’m also looking forward to getting back into the clinical part. I’ll have three years of clinical placement left and then work as an intern, but hopefully stay with a foot in the research area.

I’d like to specialise in Haematology. When I was was in undergrad I did Human Pathology and we had a unit on Haematology within that and I found that super interesting and that’s sort of what lead me down this path.

What was your first job?

I worked at Hungry Jack’s when I was 15. I didn’t really enjoy it, so I was pretty glad to leave that job.

What advice do you have for other students who might be considering or just starting a PhD?

Definitely meet with different supervisors, see who you get along with as well as projects that interest you because you’re going to be working with your supervisor a lot. Also meet with the team you’re going to be working with because that makes a big difference, I’m lucky to be working with a great team and supervisor. If you’re considering doing a PhD, if you’re interested in research then definitely go for it, it’s not always easy and it can be quite challenging and frustrating at times but it’s worth it.
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