Student Profile - Waled Shihata

Waled Shihata
Waled Shihata at the 2016 CCS Graduate Symposium

Waled Shihata is a Monash University PhD student in the Vascular Pharmacology Laboratory and the Haematopoiesis and Leukocyte Biology Laboratory at the Baker Research Institute, where he is supervised respectively by Prof Jaye Chin-Dusting and A/Prof Andrew Murphy. He completed his Honours in the same lab at Baker Institute before beginning his PhD where he is currently researching high blood pressure in cardiovascular disease and the role of caveolae/caveolin proteins.

Can you tell me a bit about your research?

We’re looking at elevated pressure seen in hypertension, the major contributing risk factor for cardiovascular disease related mortality and morbidity rates. High blood pressure contributes to more death and disease than any other risk factor.

My research is following on from a previous student in our lab, who was looking at pressure and the role that proteins called caveolins play in that. I'm looking at pressure as a stimulus for inflammation and cardiac fibrosis and seeing how caveolae/caveolin proteins affect these processes, whether they play a good or bad role in these pressure-induced pathologies as it's still relatively unclear.

Have you always been interested in this area?

I was interested in cardiovascular disease as a whole, not specifically high blood pressure. I did my Honours in the same lab at Baker IDI and my project was looking at atherosclerosis and the AT2 receptor and I really enjoyed that and then went on to do a PhD and chose the project I’m doing now.

What have you enjoyed most about doing a PhD?

What I’ve enjoyed most is that you’re the first person in the world to discover something in that area. It’s always fun and exciting to find out that you’re the only person who’s found something. I also enjoy working with other researchers, other PhD students and collaborating with them as well as learning how to present to different audiences.

You’ve done the Three-Minute Thesis Competition. What were the main skills you gained from that?

I think the Three-Minute thesis was really important, regardless of whether you win or not, it’s a good experience. You’re able to narrow down your research to the most important points because you don’t have that much time, but also the fact that it allows you to communicate your research to different audiences, specifically audiences who aren’t familiar with your research or who don’t have any scientific background.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I really love sports, particularly soccer. I play indoor soccer every weekend, other than that I enjoy hanging out with friends and family, going to watch movies and out to eat. I love to eat!

What’s your favourite place in the world?

I’m going to say Egypt, I’m biased because my family’s from there. My parents were married in Egypt and then decided to come to Australia to start a new life. So whenever we get the chance we go there, because most of our family is still there.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a doctor, working in surgery, and it’s still not completely ruled out. I still would like to pursue that, and my ideal goal in the future is part time in the clinic, part time in research because I like those two aspects.

Would you consider doing a medical degree in the future?
Maybe, a little later in my career I think. In the short term I want to continue on with research because I really enjoy doing actual experiments, discovering something new.

What are your plans for when you’ve finished your PhD?

My plan is to hopefully secure a Postdoc position overseas, I’m looking towards doing one in Europe, maybe England. So hopefully next year I’ll be doing an overseas conference and trying to find the right lab to do my Postdoc in.

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

My advice is to research, research, research. Don’t go into it blindly, make sure you’ve made the right decision, because a PhD isn’t an easy thing. Firstly, you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the right project, because if you don’t enjoy your project then you’re not going to enjoy your time doing the PhD. Also, your supervisor is really important, you need to make sure you have a positive relationship and find the right fit with them.

Really research and find out whether you want to do a PhD or not because at the end of the day, it could determine what your future career prospects are, but if you enjoy then I think you should go ahead and do it.