UTS PhD candidate to represent NSW at national meeting
PhD candidate, Riti Mann, will present her research at the Australian Society for Microbiology’s (ASM) Annual Scientific Meeting in Hobart later this year, following her successful presentation at the NSW branch competition last month.
Ms Mann was awarded the Becton Dickinson ASM Student Travel prize for her 12 minute presentation on her research project: ‘We are what we eat: Identifying a regulatory crosstalk between central carbon metabolism and cell division in bacteria’.
Her research—supervised by Professor Liz Harry, Dr Amy Bottomley, and Dr Leigh Monahan—aims to understand how bacteria gage food availability and communicate this to the internal process of cell division, a process that is essential for bacterial growth. Understanding how cell division works in bacteria is important because it’s an essential process for bacteria surviving.
“I think what made Riti’s presentation stand out is that she also presented a story of what the research is, the implications and its significance,” Co-supervisor Dr. Bottomley said. “Instead of just relaying the results of the experiments that Riti is doing in labs at the moment, she also said how that information could be applied to the real world.”
Ms Mann’s research has been the first to discover a link between cell division and a chemical produced from the breakdown of glucose, pyruvate. Understanding how pyruvate is part of this link has since become focus of further experiments.
“If you target the enzyme that produces pyruvate with chemical inhibitors, it can kill bacteria like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or golden staph,” she said. “We know that even though we’re studying it in a context that’s not pathogenic, it does have an effect on pathogens, so it can help to control infections.”
In addition to answering the fundamental biology question of how bacterial cell division is regulated by nutrient availability, Ms Mann’s research aims to uncover a new area of interest for possible exploration regarding the development of antimicrobial agents.
Now entering the third year of her PhD, Ms Mann decided to embark on her higher degree research at UTS in 2015, after coming in contact with a representative from UTS International in her home country India, where she had previously studied a Master of Science in Microbiology at the University of Delhi.
The opportunity to study at the Faculty of Science at UTS was of particular interest to Ms Mann, she says, because of the research project itself.
“This is something I always wanted to pursue for my PhD, a mix of microbiology, biochemistry and other applied areas of science,” she said.
Ms Mann also affirms that the supportive environment of the ithree institute (infection, immunity and innovation) and, in particular, the guidance of her supervisors has allowed her to seize her research opportunities and lead her towards the career in academia she hopes to pursue.
Dr Bottomley agrees that while it can be harder to succeed as a woman in the field of science, working with a supervisor like Liz Harry, who is so passionate, has helped them put themselves forward and champion their research.
“Liz always says we’ll just go for it because the worst that’s going to happen is they’ll say no—I think she’s very encouraging,” Dr Bottomley said.
PhD candidate Guilia Ballerin, from ithree institute (supervised by Associate Professor Cynthia Whitchurch) was also a finalist for the NSW branch ASM Student Travel Award competition.