Michelle Chonwerawong

Michelle Chonwerawong

Degree

PhD student

Area of study

Immunology, microbiology, host-pathogen interactions, infectious diseases

Supervisors

Year of enrolment

2016

Why did you choose Hudson Institute and your research group?

Hudson Institute is a multidisciplinary research institute with state-of-the-art facilities and is connected to Monash Medical Centre. Having completed my undergraduate degree at Monash University (Clayton Campus), I felt the need to relocate to a new facility and adjust to a new environment. This has helped me to connect and network with senior and early-career researchers and also fellow students from all stages of their research career. Hudson Institute is affiliated with the University, and is conveniently located close to campus and the train station, which are important aspects to consider as a student. I was very interested in innate immunity and infectious diseases, which are my specialty areas of study for my Bsc, which is why I chose to begin my research career in CiiiD. The centre is excellent in providing the support network for both students and staff members, and is also very driven in terms of research quality and output.

What is your research about and what do you hope to achieve?

My PhD focuses on investigating host responses during infection with the stomach pathogen, Helicobacter pylori, the major cause of gastric cancer worldwide. H. pylori infects over half of the world's population, however, only 1-2 per cent of patients will develop gastric cancer. We predict that there is a critical host molecule, NLRC5, produced in macrophages that can sense H. pylori infection and induce protective effects in the host. H. pylori-infected individuals with high levels of NLRC5 may therefore be 'immune' to developing severe gastrointestinal disease such as gastric cancer. This study will provide a better understanding of how gastric cancer is driven and the key molecules involved during infection with H. pylori. Additionally, this highlights the importance of host-pathogen interactions, mainly, how we can target specific host molecules as potential therapeutic approaches to combat severe disease associated with bacterial and viral infections.

What opportunities have you had at Hudson Institute?

During the first two years of my PhD, I published one first-author original research publication, co-authored an invited review article and I am continually working on other manuscripts and book chapters. Additionally, I have also been invited to give oral presentations at meetings and symposiums, such as the Annual Helicobacter meeting (2017), VIIN Lorne Infection and Immunity Conference (2018) and the VIIN Young Investigator’s Symposium (2017). I have also presented a poster at the MHTP Research Week (2017). Aside from being scientifically active, I have also been involved in showcasing my research to a group of Year 10 students for the Day of Immunology, and volunteered to help with many events associated with CiiiD and the institute. I also became a student representative for ECRs as part of the Hudson Institute Student Society. In terms of collaborative efforts, there is always an opportunity to help and discuss science with other researchers.