Student Profile - My-Nhan Nguyen

My-Nhan Nguyen at the 2016 CCS Graduate student symposium

My-Nhan is a PhD student in the Experimental Cardiology lab at the Baker Research Institute where she is supervised by A/Prof Xiao-Jun Du and A/Prof Julie McMullin. My-Nhan studied an undergraduate degree in Science majoring in Physiology where she gained an interest in cardiovascular disease, which she has continued with in her Honours and PhD studies.

Can you tell me a bit about your research?

I’m mainly interested in documenting the contribution of cardiac fibrosis to the generation of ventricular arrhythmias. We have a preclinical model that has progressive onset of cardiac fibrosis and we have observed that this model has spontaneous onset of arrhythmias, making it quite useful for demonstrating a proof of concept for suppressing arrhythmias by anti-fibrotic therapy. At the moment one of the main potential targets that we are investigating is galectin-3 which has emerged as a key player in promoting fibrosis and inflammation.

Is cardiovascular work something that you’ve always been interested in? Did you study a similar topic for Honours?

I’ve always been interested in research into cardiovascular disease because the heart is such a dynamic organ, it’s essential for the body to function. In terms of fibrosis and arrhythmias it did start from Honours. Funnily enough, I started Honours with a project focussing on angiogenesis and one day we decided to record some surface ECG in our model. When I observed that this model had spontaneous arrhythmias, we decided that we should change the project and focus on fibrosis and arrhythmias. It sparked my curiosity for investigating these topics and led all the way to my PhD.

Is there anything you’ve learnt so far which has surprised you?

Many things have surprised me - in research you never know where you’re going to take it. Every day you learn something new and I think that’s great.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

For a PhD student there’s not much spare time, but whenever I do have some I like to just spend it with my family and friends.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

It would have to be in my parents’ home country, Vietnam. I was born in Australia but it was only in 2015 that I visited Vietnam for the first time. I thought that was an incredible journey, being able to know where my parents used to live and grew up and actually meet their family.

Have you done much other travelling as well?

Yes, this year I went to Europe - Italy and the Netherlands for a conference. I really liked Europe, it’s very charming. I travelled solo for the first time as well, which made it extra special.

What is your favourite food?

Oh that’s hard, I love food in general, so I don’t have a favourite to be honest!

What will you do when you’ve finished your PhD?

Like most PhD students, I’d like to do a Postdoc. Ultimately, I’d love to stay in research, although in recent years I’ve become more aware of what’s happening in terms of funding but I think you’ve got to fight for it if you want to stay and that’s what I’m willing to do.

What advice do you have for others considering or just starting a PhD?

A PhD is a huge commitment, 3-4 years of your life. You must be passionate about what you’re planning to research and you must be willing to commit to those years. It’s also important to have some idea of what type of goals you would like to achieve from your PhD and in turn find a supervisor and a lab that is willing to support you in these goals. It is also important that you feel comfortable with the supervisor and the lab because you’ll spend a lot of time with them over those years.

For those who are now starting, a PhD is never going to be easy. You will have successful days, but you will encounter many days where you’ll feel very frustrated because your experiments didn’t work or things aren’t going according to plan. On those days you should remember why you’re doing a PhD in the first place and keep persevering because it will get better in the end.