Reflections from Down Under
Fulbright Research Grant winner explores “super bugs” and the best of Sydney
Last summer, Jana Soares ’15 set off for Australia to begin a postgraduate project at the University of Technology in Sydney on a Fulbright Research Grant. We checked in with her to see how her research is going and what she thinks about life Down Under.
>> I’m starting some preliminary experiments using Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that is a serious hospital-acquired infection threat and multi-drug-resistant “superbug.” This means that antibiotics are often ineffective against this pathogen, resulting in antibiotic-resistant strains. In my research, I am using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to test for effective antibiotic and antimicrobial combinations in combating this pathogen. Once the most effective option is found using C. elegans and further tests are done, this might then be studied in mammalian cells and higher-order model organisms.
>> A typical day in the lab is atypical, but that’s partly what makes it exciting. There are some days where lab meetings, seminar talks, training and planned experiments will be jampacked into a day. Another day may consist of prep work, like sterilizing pipette tips, reading journal articles, planning future experiments or writing up results. Running a research project is like running a marathon — you have to be prepared for all kinds of obstacles, stay at a pace steady enough to keep going and have the endurance to reach the finish line.
>> I find Sydney to be a mix between London and New York City, though half as crowded. Sydney is also very cosmopolitan, and it has been really cool meeting people from many different countries. While I am learning about Australian culture, I am also learning about the cultures in Scotland, Italy, India and more. I’ve enjoyed attending Mass and joining the choir at St. Benedict’s Church, which is being restored by the University of Notre Dame Australia — a Holy Cross campus like St. Edward’s. I’ve visited the “Golden Bucket” (the Sydney Tower Eye), Manly Beach and the Blue Mountains. I like shopping in Paddy’s Markets, trying local food — my favorite is the chocolate-covered Tim Tam biscuit for morning or afternoon tea breaks — and getting up close and personal with the Australian white ibis, a well-known sandwich-stealing bird that has interrupted my picnic lunches.
By Lauren Liebowitz
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