Fertile ground for medical research career

By Rob Clancy, staff writer

A key focus at Hudson Institute is to mentor the next generation of medical researchers. In 2021, more than 176 Honours, Masters and PhD students were supervised by our senior scientists, giving them the knowledge, skills and confidence to forge a successful medical research or clinical career. 

Professor Kate Loveland, Penny Whiley, Associate Professor Robin Hobbs future leaders in male infertility research.
L–R: Professor Kate Loveland, Penny Whiley, Associate Professor Robin Hobbs 

PhD candidate Penny Whiley and her supervisors, internationally recognised reproductive health experts Professor Kate Loveland and Associate Professor Robin Hobbs, are working to answer what causes male infertility. 

Penny Whiley | PhD student on pursuing a medical research career

What are you researching? 

In Australia, one in 20 men is infertile and for many the underlying cause is unknown. I study the spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) that are essential for lifelong production of sperm in the testis. My research has identified that too much activin A in the developing testis disrupts SSC establishment, potentially leading to infertility and testicular tumours later in life. The answers we uncover will help scientists develop new treatments. 

What is your typical day? 

Medical research is all about discovery and learning. I love trying to understand how our bodies work and discovering something new. My days are spent in the laboratory, doing experiments and analysing results. The rest of the time, I’m reading up on new discoveries or attending meetings where I present my data and learn about others’ amazing research. 

What’s important for people to know about a medical research career? 

Good medical research takes time. Your body is amazingly complex, and everything is interlinked, so understanding how one gene/protein/RNA works within an organ requires a logical and thorough approach. 

Why did you choose your supervisors/group? 

Collaboration and a supportive environment are vital to succeeding and foraging a medical research career. I worked at Hudson Institute before embarking on a PhD, so I knew my supervisors were encouraging and supportive. The community of students, medical researchers and on-site clinicians also offers plenty of opportunity for collaboration. 

What was 2021 highlight in your medical research career? 

Winning both the School and Faculty level 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competitions. This event provides a unique challenge for PhD students to communicate their medical research to the public in just three minutes. I think it’s more important than ever for scientists to practise sharing their work and its impact in an uncomplicated and engaging manner. 

Professor Kate Loveland | Supervisor 

Why is a supervisor important to building a medical research career? 

My role is to instil critical thinking that prepares students for a lifetime of exploration and finding answers. Every student learns differently, so the aim is to provide an environment for each student to excel. That requires setting realistic and clear goals, and providing a place where people feel safe to share, collaborate and expand their knowledge. 

Associate Professor Robin Hobbs | Supervisor 

Why are resilience and curiosity important in a medical research career? 

Scientific curiosity is essential – it motivates and drives progress. Resilience is vital because the trial-and-error nature of medical research means that most experiments don’t work as planned. Success in medical research often follows the lessons learnt from many failures. While negative results are disheartening, they can ultimately point the way towards the most insightful discoveries. 

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Hudson Institute communications
t: + 61 3 8572 2761
e: communications@hudson.org.au

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Hudson Institute’ s research programs deliver in five areas of medical need – inflammation, cancer, reproductive health, newborn health, and hormones and health. More

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