Student Profile - Perdita Cheshire

Perdita is a Research Assistant in the Burns Unit at the Alfred Hospital, and she has just completed her PhD in the Van Cleef Roet Centre for Nervous Diseases on Parkinson's Disease and how patients react with some of the treatments for the disease. Her supervisors were Associate Professor David Williams and Professor Elsdon Storey


What is your research about?

I have actually finished my PhD, and that is now under examination so I have moved into a different research area for the moment. I did my PhD in Parkinson’s Disease, using brain tissue to look at the side effects of some medication of Parkinson’s disease and then trying and work out why some patients develop these side effects. Now I’ve moved into the burns department of the Alfred Hospital in a lab where we grow artificial skin. At the moment we have a new project where we’re grafting single layer skin grafts on to mice, and that’s my role as a research assistant. I’ve gone from working with human brain tissue to mice, so it’s quite different.


When you were doing your PhD, who was your supervisor?

Associate Professor David Williams and Professor Elsdon Storey, both in the Neurology Department of the Alfred Hospital.


What did you like about them?

They’re both clinicians, so they have a different approach to me, as a scientist. They have different skill sets and I’ve learnt a lot from them. I really enjoyed working with different people from different backgrounds.


If you had to give a piece of advice to a new PhD student, what would it be?
I would say, start writing early, and just keep going. It sounds really banal, but you can build up the thesis to be a really scary thing that happens at the end, but if you just keep chipping away at it all the way through, then you’ll find that at the end you don’t have as much to do and you can take some of the pressure off yourself.


When you aren’t researching, what do you do for fun?

I don’t have a particular hobby, but I’m from England, so I really like seeing Australia and exploring the country.  A PhD can be all consuming sometimes to its nice just to sit back and actually relax. I also love socialising and seeing my friends.


How long have you been in Melbourne then?
5 years now, I love Australia, it’s a home away from home. It doesn’t really feel like I’ve moved to another country, it just feels like I’ve moved to another town.


What is your favourite place in the world?

I think it depends what mood I’m in! Sometimes it’s really nice to go and lie on a beach in Thailand, but sometimes you want to be in a really cultural city. I lived in London for a few years and that was really great, but I think that San Francisco is one of my favourite places; it’s just got a really good atmosphere.


What was your first job?

I worked in a real estate agent. I did work experience and then they offered me a job…but I did have a rubbish job as well. I worked in an ice creamery in a castle. Where I grew up in the country there was a castle nearby and so in the summer holidays I worked there. The grounds had been converted from stables, and it was freezing cold, and the ice cream was rock hard, I was terrible at scooping it! But we got to eat the expired ice cream, so it wasn’t all bad.


Will you continue researching?
I really enjoy translational research, so working on things that are going to go directly into medical practice. I really like working with human brain tissue because you know that it’s directly applicable to human disease, and I’m enjoying working on the burns project because we are developing a product to go onto human burns patients. I think that I’ll continue with research for a few more years and hopefully travel for a bit.