Student Profile - Michael Cangkrama

Michael successfully completed his PhD with the Department of Medicine in 2015, where he was supervised by Professor Steve Jane and Dr Charbel Darido. He is now working as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at ETH Zurich, Institute for Molecule Health Sciences. This interview was originally published in 2014.

Michael is a PhD student in the Department of Medicine, and his research is based on looking at skin development and diseases. He is situated in the Epidermal Development Laboratory and his supervisors are Professor Stephen Jane and Dr Charbel Darido.

What is your PhD about?
My research is focused on the transcription factor family, called the grainyhead-like gene. The function of this gene is mainly seen in skin development, so my main focus is to look at the skin barrier function through this transcription factor. Our lab has actually identified one of the functions of this gene which is important for the skin barrier function and the finding has previously been published in Science paper, which is where they actually look at the function of the grainyhead like gene in skin barrier function, before birth. Now my main focus is to analyse the function of this gene, after birth. So it will be a great impact study on human skin disease like eczema and psoriasis.

Who are your supervisors?
Professor Stephen Jane and Dr Charbel Darido. I think they are great people, and I like them because they are always there when I need them. When you start a PhD you have no idea what you are doing, so it is important to have supportive supervisors. They are not only my supervisors in lab, but they are also my supervisors in life too, which is great because you need the support over the course of your PhD.

What are your plans once your PhD is finished?
Definitely I will do post doc, either in Europe or the USA. I want to try something new because my education started in Indonesia, then I did my Bachelor degree in Australia, so I want to do something different with my work life in other countries.

How long have you been in Australia for?
8 years. I did my Bachelor at RMIT, and I completed my Honours at Melbourne Uni, and then I continued on to Monash.

Was there anything you noticed that was particularly different about the universities?
Besides the buildings! I think that because my Bachelor degree was in Biotechnology, and then I moved to a Biomedical path in my post grad, there was a very big change from what I was learning at RMIT.

Where are you from originally?
I’m from Indonesia and I moved here after I finished high school.

If you could give a piece of advice to someone who is about to start their PhD, what would you say?
I think most people think about doing a PhD as another 3 or 4 years of torturing yourself in a really stressful environment, but I would say that, yes there is a lot of pressure but the other thing is, by doing a PhD you help yourself learn more and become a better researcher. I know I have learnt how to handle pressure, and you get to meet a lot of great people, especially if you have the chance to go to conferences.

What do you do when you are not researching?I like travelling, and seeing different things. I like sightseeing and I think it’s a good way to leave behind my work and relax. I really love the countryside, and I also love travelling overseas. The only continent that I haven’t been to is Africa, and I really want to go there to experience a really different lifestyle, and actually experience culture shock.

So far, where is your favourite place in the world?
I like New York, because I think it represents me. New York really never stops, but then you also have your quiet places in such a busy city which is really nice. I think that New York is great because it has so many different cultures, food and lifestyles. I love Melbourne too, but if I had to choose, it would be New York.

If you could go back in time and tell yourself something before you began your PhD, what would you say?
Don’t think twice, just do it. I think a PhD is a really great platform and in the long run, it is a small step in relation to your future, but you have to be patient.

Published 29/01/14