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Malaghan students ready for international experience

28 October 2015

Photo caption: Amy Shepherd, Sotaro Ochiai, Catherine Plunkett, Cameron Field, Ryan Kyle

Alanna Cameron is Professor Mike Berridge’s tenth PhD student.  She came here as a summer student six years ago, and has recently handed in her thesis investigating the immunological effects of highly targeted anti-cancer drugs and the combination of these drugs with a melanoma vaccine. All will change when she – and four other PhD students leave us over the coming months to take up post-doctoral positions overseas.

Alanna, Cameron Field and Ryan Kyle will relocate to The Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, in Freiburg Germany.  Alanna will be working with Professor Edward Pearce on an immunometabolism project.  Cameron, who has been working in Associate Professor Ian Herman’s Vaccine Therapy Programme has recently submitted his PhD thesis on improving vaccine immunotherapy with checkpoint blockade for aggressive brain tumours, and will soon be working with Dr Erika Pearce as part of her Immunometabolism Department.  There he hopes to investigate how immune cells maintain their bioenergetic needs when they are within the brain which is a highly metabolic organ in its own right.











Alanna Cameron

Ryan, who achieved an unprecedented milestone of second authorship in a 2013  Nature Immunology paper on the mechanisms that underlie allergic disease, hopes to continue researching how the immune system works and in keeping with the saying in science, 'publish or perish’.

Sotaro Ochiai will be an hour away on the autobahn in Basel Switzerland where his PhD supervisor Professor Graham Le Gros lived immediately before his return to New Zealand in 1994. Sotaro has been studying dendritic cells – the so called sentinels of the immune system – and will study the developmental origins of these allergy-inducing dendritic cells.

Catherine Plunkett from Dr Liz Forbes-Blom’s team has been investigating the development of our gut microbiota and the cross-talk with the immune system from early life, and has just secured a job with the highly regarded Dr Cathryn Nagler of the University of Chicago.

Amy Shepherd has just left us to begin her PhD at the University of Melbourne in Neuroscience. During the last two years she has been researching both colorectal cancer and intestinal parasites, under the instruction of Professors Franca Ronchese and Graham Le Gros and while it would appear she is taking a new direction she says she ultimately plans to combine some of the parasitology, microbiotal research and immunology she’s learnt here with the cognitive-behavioural neuroscience techniques to glean a better understanding of how the brain and behaviour can be affected by the body as a whole.

We farewell this group of talented people from the Malaghan Institute and New Zealand knowing that they leave an internationally recognised medical research community and look forward to their return or international collaboration with them.