News / 15 December 2016
Julienne O’Rourke

Julienne is a PhD candidate from St Vincent’s Institute for Medical Research and the University of Melbourne where she is a member of Dr Andrew Dean’s team. Julienne is studying the rare and inherited syndrome, Fanconi Anaemia.

Fanconi Anaemia is associated with a failure in DNA repair and a 700-fold risk of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). In a sub-type of the disease, patients’ cells fail to produce the protein, FANCM. Julienne is trying to understand the interplay between specific DNA repair processes and cancer progression and treatment. She hopes to understand how proteins involved in maintaining genomic stability and how the loss of these proteins results in cancer predisposition.

Julienne is characterizing the structure of FANCM containing complexes. Her project is one of the first to initiate research into the biochemical and enzymatic function of gene products involved in the Fanconi Anaemia pathway for the prevention of leukaemia.

Julienne hopes to work overseas when she completes her PhD. This was cemented when she spent six months in London during the year working on various aspects in her PhD. One of Julienne’s personal goals whilst undertaking her PhD has been to learn a variety of techniques and broaden her skill set, to enhance her intellectual capacity and leadership potential. This personal goal is what led her to volunteer as Co-convener EAPS 2016.

Julienne says she volunteered to help organize EAPS 2016 because she sees the enormous benefits to students these symposiums can deliver. She has a passion for programs that benefit students and being able to get together with like-minded students from Australia is an important opportunity to create new networks and make lifelong friends. She says “symposiums like EAPS 2016 are invaluable as they aim to not only provide a platform for students to present research but also let us get involved in the interdisciplinary scientific discussion in a supportive environment.”

Would she volunteer to do it again? She exclaims “In a heartbeat! EAPS2016 has inspired me, provided me with valuable contacts, enriched my networks and resulted in lifelong friends.” She reflects on EAPS 2016 as definitely being a highlight of her PhD candidature. She says there is not one specific aspect that stands out for her but “the most gratifying and heartening moment was at the conclusion of the meeting with students taking the time to come up to all of us and thank us for our effort and work and sharing how inspired and motivated they were to tackle the challenges of their own research projects.”

Her advice to the organizers for EAPS 2017 “your fellow organizing committee members are not only your colleagues but your friends, and by extension your support network. Be not afraid to ask for help, to vent, to collaborate – as fellow PhD students, they understand the stresses and struggles better than anyone else. At the end, you will together celebrate the fruits of your labour at the success of EAPS 2017.”

Along with her incredible organizational capabilities and people skills, Julienne also has some hidden talents –she knows how to brew beer? Maybe an idea for EAPS2017.

Congratulations Julienne on an outstanding achievement, we wish you every success in the future.