Molecular watch in Melbourne

Abishek Suresh. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: HANDOUT_E_MAIL

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect” is one of my favourite lines from the Bible, especially when I now look back at my life. I studied in Sishya, Chennai, up to Class X and completed my schooling in A.M.M Matriculation Hr. Sec. School in 2005. With my interest for biological sciences, I chose a bachelor’s degree (B.Tech) in bioinformatics at VIT (Vellore Institute of Technology) University, Vellore.

In 2010, I flew to Malaysia to pursue a master’s degree (by research) in Bioinformatics at AIMST University, Kedah. I returned to Chennai the following year to hold the position of a research manager at Biomedical Informatics, a bioinformatics-based research organisation.

Application process

I looked up RMIT University’s international student scholarship page once I received my offer letter to find details regarding the generous VIDS (Victoria-India Doctoral Scholarships) programme. This programme was launched by the Victorian Government in 2011 where 10 Indian Ph.D scholars are chosen to pursue their degrees in any one of the nine Victorian universities. Applying online for the scholarship was simple and nothing out of the ordinary — an essay describing my educational qualifications, another statement on my motivation towards taking up this research project, two recommendation letters, and a copy of my university transcripts. I received an email in early February stating that I got the scholarship and on February 21, I was handed over my Ph.D scholarship in New Delhi by the Premier of Victoria.

My Ph.D involves a computational study that requires molecular modelling and simulation methods, of nicotinic receptors, a protein in the brain involved in transmission of neuron signals. However, these receptors are also known to malfunction and promote or cause Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in the elderly. I am currently studying these receptors and how they relate to such neuro de-generative disorders. More importantly, I am trying to understand how I could “switch off” these harmful disease-causing receptors using natural toxin proteins found in snail-venom. If this study is successful, it could further lead to drug-design.

Professors and other post-doc students I meet from the School of Applied Sciences at RMIT are well experienced in molecular simulations. Although I am one of the few students in my department working on bio-simulations, I get a lot of help from my colleagues when needed. Like other Ph.D students here, I meet my supervisor Dr. Andrew Hung at least once a week to discuss any progress/difficulties. On the whole, I find the teacher-student relationship a relaxed, informal and comfortable one. I also tutor a bioinformatics hands-on session once a week. This gives me a good opportunity to interact with students here on a one-on-one basis.

My life is now absolutely different from what it was in India. The weekdays don’t give me too much time for myself and I am off to university by 9 a.m. At about 7:30 p.m., I hit the gym for an hour. After dinner (cooked by yours truly), I prepare for the next day, read up on my research or finish with my pending work.

Weekends are more relaxed, when I usually meet up with colleagues from the university for dinner or a game of footy (football); sometimes it’s with friends from a church I go to. I find people here very friendly. Random strangers sometimes start a friendly conversation with you with “How’s it going mate?” apart from being helpful.

Of course, I can’t forget mentioning hanging out with the other VIDS scholars who are my buddies now. I feel blessed to be a part of the friendly multicultural face of Melbourne.

The writer is VIDS program scholar, RMIT University, Melbourne.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 4:50:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/research/Molecular-watch-in-Melbourne/article12541272.ece

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