Research Assistant Callum Docherty explains why immunology is his passion and advancing cancer therapy is his goal.

I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity and a passion for big-picture ideas.  Growing up both my mother and grandmother had cancer.  After such an early confrontation with the absence of health — something most of us take for granted until we lose it — the impact of morbidity on quality of life became apparent to me.

Combined with my disposition for big ideas, I was drawn to studying biomedical science. It epitomizes our common humanity.

My curiosity always drives me to get to the crux of any issue. That’s why I majored in biochemistry and molecular biology during my Bachelor of Science at Monash. I wanted to learn more about human health and disease and to direct my education towards cancer research.

During first-year biology I was introduced to immunology and was immediately fascinated because of its role in infectious disease.  Later while doing an immunology major, I discovered its broader importance in all pathologies and their resolution, including cancer and cancer therapeutics.

It’s little wonder, then, that I’m really attracted to the Cartherics’ research and goals. I relish the idea of working in translational medical research where the work we do will foreseeably be in the clinic helping patients one day soon.

I feel lucky to be here. Although I’d previously heard of Cartherics, I found the research assistant role serendipitously through an email sent by my Honours supervisor.  Previously, I was certain of the prospect of a long and challenging job search, given the small biotech industry in Melbourne and the highly competitive nature of any biomedical research position – with high numbers of graduates each year.

In fact, the poor job prospect in science is partly the reason why I remain undecided as to whether to pursue a PhD in the future. Academic post-doc positions are notoriously less stable than research assistant jobs. There are good reasons why there is a ‘postdocalypse’ of young researchers heading overseas where they have a better chance of building a career.

Fortunately, Cartherics has given me an opportunity to pursue my professional interests, including the use of systems biology and the use high throughput techniques. I also see huge potential for mathematical modeling of biological system as a tool to study complex biological systems.

That’s especially so with the recent progress in big data analysis technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. I believe these fields hold the key to unbiased analysis of whole “omics” data and revealing insights previous obscured by conventionally directed research.

While I have only just started at Cartherics, I relish the work we do each day and love to investigate the research questions that arise further in my downtime.

However, outside of my day-to-day role, I like to think of myself as a bit of a polymath or, more realistically, a jack of all trades.  I pursue a range of diverse interests, from personal health, running and yoga to reading, playing piano, cultivating a collection of indoor plants, and experimenting with watercolour pencils. And I enjoy learning other languages and travelling when the opportunity arises.

See you in the lab!