Helen McRae

Helen McRae

PhD student Helen McRae at microscope
PhD student Helen McRae

Why did you choose the institute for your PhD?

I began working at the institute as an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) student, and also completed honours here. After being exposed to the high quality research and fantastic work environment, I was inspired to stay for further study.

What are the benefits of doing a PhD at the institute?

I think it is a fantastic place for a PhD because you can participate in the high quality research at the institute. The collaborative nature of the institute creates a wonderful scientific community. In addition, the institute’s excellent research facilities and the availability of technical assistance enable work to be done efficiently. There are also great learning opportunities for students, including two journal clubs and a teaching seminar series, and many opportunities for students to meet research experts.

What is the subject of your PhD research?

I am studying a protein called PHF6, that is non-functional or absent in people with the intellectual disability syndrome Borjeson-Forssman-Lehmann syndrome (BFLS). The normal function of PHF6 is unknown. My project involves exploring the molecular, cellular, and physiological consequences of loss of PHF6. Interestingly, PHF6 is also mutated in 40 per cent of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, thus another aspect of my project involves investigating whether PHF6 has a role in tumour suppression.

What does a typical working day involve?

A typical working day involves time in the lab carrying out experiments, time on the computer analysing data or reading papers, as well as some time spent attending meetings or seminars.

What did you do before starting your PhD?

I completed a Bachelor of Science degree at The University of Melbourne, majoring in genetics. During this time, I began working as a UROP student in my current lab, and subsequently completed my honours year here.