John A McKenzie / Selby Scientific Foundation Award 2016

  • The Foundation established an additional award in 2005 at the University of Melbourne to be presented at the faculty of Science annual Dean’s Awards function. Named the John A McKenzie / Selby Scientific Foundation Award it provides continuing recognition of Professor McKenzie’s seven years of distinguished service as Dean of the Faculty.

    Awarded to a student who has completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Biomedicine, and is pursuing one of the following: a research training program in the Master of Science, the Postgraduate Diploma in Science or the final year of the degree of Bachelor of Science with honours or Bachelor of Biomedicine with honours, in the Department of Genetics.

    The Foundation congratulates this year's award winner:

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  • Jacob Calabria

    BioSciences
    University of Melbourne
    Awarded on 03/08/2016

    In 2016 I commenced a Master of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne under the supervision of Michael Murray. Our lab works on Drosophila development, with particular interest in the cellular transition of motile Mesenchymal cells to stationary Epithelial (MET) and the reverse Epithelial to Mesenchymal transition (EMT). These cell transitions are not only important in Drosophila but are also a fundamental process in all animal development. In addition to their role in development these cell transitions are also believed to have a critical role in cancer metastasis.

    My project will focus on gaining a better understanding of the Mesenchymal to Epithelial transition, which despite its apparent importance, is currently poorly understood. I will do this through the study of the naturally occurring MET which takes place in the normal digestive development of the Drosophila embryonic midgut. Using a technique called Targeted DamID I will detectably mark genomic regions of the midgut cells which associate with gene transcription machinery, both prior to and after the MET event. By using these marks as a proxy for actively transcribed genomic regions I will be able to compile a list of genes that are turned on at these two time points of the MET. Through a comparison of genes at these two time points I will be able to determine which of these genes are being turned on or off as the MET proceeds and these genes will likely be those that control the process. Once identified I will then conduct further functional analysis on a subset of these genes to confirm any roles they play in the midgut MET and what these roles include. Through this analysis I hope to begin piecing together a molecular model of the Drosophila midgut MET with the aim of gaining a better understanding of the regulation of METs in general.

    It is this approach of beginning with a large gene list and narrowing down the key components involved in regulating the MET that attracted me to the project. The fact the next direction of my research depends on what genes come up in the initial screen is an exciting prospect and I look forward to investigating the genes that do arise throughout this year. 

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