Rune Larsen

When Rune Larsen arrived in Melbourne from Denmark to commence his PhD, he was already aware that the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute was held in high regard on the world stage.

Dr Andrew Webb and PhD student Rune Larsen
PhD student Rune Larsen (right) with his
supervisor Associate Professor Andrew Webb

Rune completed his Master of Medical Science at Aalborg University, where he focused on basic and translational research and specialised in biomedicine. He was ready to look around for the next step on his career trajectory.

“I chose the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute because of its emphasis on the two most important attributes of research: collaboration and innovation,” Rune said.

“The Institute has an international reputation for high quality research.”

To assist his move, he applied for and received a scholarship under the Institute's International PhD Scholar Initiative.

The weight of a protein

Rune’s PhD project, supervised by Associate Professor Andrew Webb, investigates how cells react to external signals during inflammation. This helps to understand how autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis develop.

“I map the propagation of signals using mass spectrometry; we use the specific weight of amino acids to identify proteins,” he explained.

“It’s exciting to be trained in some of the most advanced methods in medical research, and to be part of a network of brilliant researchers. An unexpected benefit of studying at the Institute has been my exposure to a culture of deep and thoughtful discussions at our divisional seminar series. This has given me great insights into different patterns of inquisitive thinking.”

A typical day for Rune is divided between making sense of the data he collects from the mass spectrometer, and preparing for his next experiments.

PhD student Rune Larsen
PhD student Rune Larsen investigates how cells
react to external signals during inflammation

A universal passion

Reflecting on his education in Denmark, Rune said that as an undergrad he met patients who were suffering because of gaps in our current knowledge.

“I hope that my PhD studies will pave the way for new and optimised approaches to treating or detecting of disease.”

For now, though, Rune is mostly head-down in learning, although that takes many forms.

“The culture at the Institute provides students with many forms of support. This ranges from expert advice in whatever research field you need, to opportunities to develop broader career skills, as well as room for relaxation and fun with my fellow students and lab mates.”