Click on the profiles to discover more about the AIBN student experience and life at AIBN.

Dr Yap Pang Chuan - AIBN graduate and post-doctoral research fellow

Dr Yap Pang Chuan - AIBN graduate and post-doctoral research fellow

"AIBN provides unique opportunities for researchers to interact easily with scientists from different, but related, fields."

Working in a new state-of-the-art building with scientists from all over the world was an attractive proposition for Dr Yap Pang Chuan. Since completing a PhD at AIBN, Dr Chuan has worked in research as a post-doctoral research fellow and in industry as a senior process development engineer at Lonza Biologics in Singapore. He takes time to look back on his AIBN studies...

Why did you choose AIBN for your studies?

When I finished my Chemical Engineering degree I decided to pursue a Research Higher Degree in the area of nanotechnology. A simple search on Google immediately brought up AIBN, which (at that time) was to be housed in a $75 million world-class research facility for scientists from all over the world. That all sounded pretty awesome so I applied for a scholarship to study at AIBN.

What did you do and where did you study before coming to AIBN?

I completed a BE (Chem) at The University of Adelaide. While waiting for my PhD scholarship to be granted I was employed by the university to engineer a solution for wine refining.

What most impressed you about the AIBN facilities?

The abilities that they give us to manipulate and visualise things at nano-scale. Very cool stuff.

What do you believe AIBN can offer young researchers to give them a head start?

AIBN provides unique opportunities for researchers to interact easily with scientists from different, but related, fields. Such close multi-disciplinary interactions are the key to modern research and help young AIBN researchers in developing new and exciting ideas.

From your time at AIBN, what do you believe has been of greatest benefit to you?

I was able to easily obtain expert advice on problems I encountered in my project, which significantly shortened any delays and allowed me to complete my PhD in good time.

What did you do day to day in the lab during your studies?

I grew bacteria and harvested them for bio-materials, which I then characterised and turned into things such as vaccines.

Were you published while at AIBN?

During my PhD, I published my results on virus-like particle research in international journals such as Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Protein Expression and Purification, Journal of the Royal Society Interface and Archives of Virology.

Did you have a chance to travel while at AIBN while studying? And since?

I was given the opportunity to present my work at international conferences in New Zealand, Malaysia and the US while studying. 

How did your studies at AIBN help in the post-doctoral research work did subsequently?

My research project was closely related to my PhD work, in developing an economical and fast-response vaccine platform.

Where do you see your career heading?

I want to stay in science or research and hope to lead my own team one day. 

In what way do you believe AIBN set you up for a successful career?

The institute provided me the training and experience which are valuable for a successful research career. They included experimental skills and other important qualities such as the abilities to think critically and communicate my ideas clearly and effectively.

What social aspects of AIBN and UQ did you most enjoy?

The institute has scientists from different corners of the world. I enjoyed mingling with people of different cultural back ground and leaning about their languages, food and culture.

Dr Joe Codamo - AIBN graduate and DSM Biologics bioprocess engineer

Dr Joe Codamo - AIBN graduate and DSM Biologics bioprocess engineer

"I have had access to facilities which are state of the art and up there with first-class research institutes and industry labs around the world."

Joe Codamo credits his time at AIBN with giving him the skills needed to take on a challenging role with international biopharmaceutical manufacturer DSM Biologics. Dr Codamo took this chance to look back...

Why did you choose the AIBN?

There were several reasons why I chose the AIBN. It was (and still is) the first institute of its kind in Australia, having a strong focus in biotechnology and commercialisation which suited my aspirations of moving into a biotechnology-related industry position after completing my PhD. I was also fortunate enough to be working with Professor Peter Gray at the University of NSW (UNSW) in Sydney. Professor Gray had recently been appointed Director of the AIBN and suggested I apply for a PhD and scholarship through AIBN. The rest is history! 

What did you do before coming to AIBN?

I completed my Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology with Honours at UNSW in 2003. I then worked as a research assistant and facility manager with Professor Gray’s research group at UNSW from 2004 to mid-2006. Then I commenced my PhD studies. I moved to Brisbane and the AIBN in July 2007. 

What most impressed you about the AIBN facilities?

Having access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment located all in the one building is most impressive – and not a common feature of many other institutes or faculties in Australia.

What do you believe AIBN can offer young researchers to give them a head start?

AIBN offers all the key requirements and incentives for young researchers when commencing their studies. Excellent and efficient support staff to get your degree under way and to ensure it stays on track, the ability to work with well-trained and experienced researchers, access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities and an excellent social network to ensure you have some fun along the way!

What do you believe has been of greatest benefit to you at AIBN?

The greatest benefits of working at the AIBN have included access to the extensive range of specialised equipment and resources available through the institute. In most cases, you are also given extensive training in the operation of these specialised instruments, which is of vital importance when moving into the workforce. A critical benefit is the ability to work and collaborate with experienced researchers from diverse backgrounds, which contributed significantly towards me successfully completing my PhD and in my training as a research scientist. 

What did you do day to day in the AIBN labs?

Most of my daily lab work revolved around culturing mammalian cells and using a variety of techniques to examine their capacity to produce therapeutic proteins or biopharmaceuticals. With such work, you need to ensure the processes developed are relevant to industry and can be readily applied to their requirements.

Were you published during your time at AIBN?

Since commencing my PhD, I have been a first or co-author on four articles published in biotechnology-themed journals. The articles were published in Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Molecular Biotechnology and the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology with the topics focussed on developing efficient systems for the rapid production of biopharmaceuticals in mammalian cells.

Did you have a chance to travel while at AIBN?

During my candidature, I was extremely fortunate to have been able to attend five international conferences in Europe and the US. These meetings gave me the opportunity to meet fellow PhD students around the world as well as network with scientists and engineers working in industry. I also managed to get some free time to explore the sights.

Where do you see your career heading?

I have a strong desire to work in industry, whether it be in research and development or operations of a biotechnology company. In the short to long term, I would like to move towards a team leader/project management role within such a company.

What is your role at DSM Biologics?

I am a senior bioprocess engineer with DSM Biologics at the new $65 million scale-up facility at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane. I previously spent two years at DSM's facility in Groningen, the Netherlands. In Brisbane, I design large-scale biopharmaceutical production processes and co-ordinate process transfers from the Netherlands, while ensuring compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices. I manage DSM’s activities when using AIBN facilities to perform process development for Australian customers and collaborate with AIBN to develop a cell line generation platform for rapid and efficient production of biologics that can be used in large-scale biologics manufacturing processes. DSM is the first contract manufacturing organisation of the type in Australia. What I have learned in the Netherlands will be used in establishing and operating the DSM facility in Brisbane, which will hopefully foster further biotech development in Queensland.

In what way do you believe AIBN is setting you up for a successful career?

By completing a PhD at the AIBN, you are trained in an environment which prepares you for a career in industry or academia whether it be in Australia or overseas. I have had access to facilities which are state of the art and up there with first-class research institutes and industry labs around the world. In addition, I have been able to work and collaborate with some exceptional researchers who have a diverse range of research backgrounds from all over the world.

What social aspects of AIBN and UQ did you most enjoy?

The numerous social events co-ordinated within the institute and held throughout the year (such as the AIBN Ball) have been critical to the success of the AIBN, due to the number of researchers that are involved in a diverse range of research disciplines and come from a diverse range of backgrounds. The success of these events is primarily due to the hard work of the AIBN Students Association, which has been well supported by the senior academic and operations staff of the AIBN.

Holly Corbett - AIBN PhD student

Holly Corbett - AIBN PhD student

"It has significantly improved my critical thinking skills and ability to lay complex problems out in a communicable and logical way."

Holly Corbett arrived at AIBN with plan to enjoy the Queensland sun while deciding her future. She stayed because of the passion, global impact and technical expertise found here. Now Holly is a PhD student with AIBN group leader Professor Mark Kendall, is branching out into different areas of science, getting to travel and enjoying the relaxed lifestyle.

Why did you choose AIBN?

I originally came over as a summer student. I didn’t feel compelled to do research. In fact, I wanted to avoid it, since it is important to me to see potential concrete outcomes from what I am working on. However, I could not really decide between options on what to do with my Bachelor of Engineering and figured a summer in Queensland would be a pretty nice place to ponder it. While I was here, AIBN group leader Professor Mark Kendall totally sold me on the project with his passion for it, the technical potential of it, and the possibility of how many lives it could affect. That is what kept me.

What did you do and where did you study before coming to AIBN?

My first degree at the University of Auckland was in Biomedical Engineering. During my time there I also founded and ran Engineers Without Borders NZ.

What most impresses you about the AIBN facilities?

I enjoy the fact that at the AIBN it is possible to access different equipment and ideas to those used in your core discipline. While it is an interesting exercise in cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary communications, there is a lot of potential in those intersecting areas between fields. The community here is also a very strong one. I came over here by myself and knowing nobody here. The vibrant AIBN student community made it very easy to make new friends and I’m still doing so after three years here.

What do you believe has been of greatest benefit to you at AIBN?

Seeing our research group get closer and closer to human trials has been very motivating. It is clear that this is not just lip service to get funding, and that my group leader, Professor Mark Kendall, not only has previous experience commercialising a medical device, but is still open to ideas and feedback from committed PhD students.

What do you do day to day in the lab?

My day to day changes a lot. At the moment I am very much involved in doing protein chemistry. Previously it was animal studies and before that, molecular biology. Soon it will shift towards my traditional background – engineering. It all depends what my project needs at the time.

Have you been published since coming to AIBN?

I am the first author of Skin Vaccination against Cervical Cancer Associated Human Papillomavirus with a Novel Micro-Projection Array in a Mouse Model onPLoS ONE, an interactive open-access journal for the communication of all peer-reviewed scientific and medical research. I am also listed on the patent for a method and associated apparatus for coating projections on a patch assembly.

Have you had a chance to travel since coming to AIBN?

Yes – both with work (Sydney and Malmo, Sweden) and in my own time on holidays (Peru, Myanmar, Turkey, Borneo, and lots of Australia). I have also travelled for work-related things such as the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Science Ambassador Program (Weipa and Cairns in North Queensland).

In what way do you believe AIBN is setting you up for a successful career?

The PhD itself has significantly improved my critical thinking skills and ability to lay complex problems out in a communicable and logical way for people over a spread of disciplines. It also means, that – in particular through group leader Professor Mark Kendall – I have met many interesting people in interesting jobs in industry, academia and all through the spectrum in-between.

What social aspects of AIBN and UQ do you most enjoy?

The student social atmosphere here is amazing. Not only that, but the staff-student interaction is also great. For the most part, everyone from group leaders down is approachable and easy to chat with in social situations. And there are events every year where all of us mix.

Alexandra Depelsenaire - AIBN PhD student

Alexandra Depelsenaire - AIBN PhD student

"AIBN supports and enables you to fully delve into your interests."

Alexandra Depelsenaire may have started her studies in Germany, but is now enjoying the global impact, skills and network of contacts offered at AIBN. She is also loving the relaxed Australian way of life while working in a multicultural and multi-disciplinary environment. Here are Alexandra’s thoughts...

Why did you choose AIBN?

AIBN combines research and commercialisation and actively encourages researchers and students to publish as well as file for patents, if applicable. Vast numbers of interdisciplinary projects are available. There is also the ability to create your own project, in consultation with your supervisor, rather than being given a project.

What did you do and where did you study before coming to AIBN?

I started my Biological Science degree in Germany but decided after two years to continue my studies at Murdoch University in Western Australia. While still being enrolled at my home university, I completed both degrees 1.5 years later, majoring in Molecular Biology, Forensic Science and Toxicology. An Honours project in nanotechnology sparked my interest in combining both biological science and nanotechnology. Working as a research assistant in a nanotechnology laboratory (dermal drug delivery device) and subsequently in cancer research crystallised my desire to pursue a PhD, combining both biological science as well as nanotechnology.

What most impresses you about the AIBN facilities?

It is a state-of-the-art facility which enables students to access top-line equipment through the collaborations between research groups. Researchers are willing to share their extensive knowledge and passion, while allowing access to their instruments.

What do you believe AIBN can offer young researchers to give them a head start?

At AIBN, the only restriction is yourself. AIBN supports and enables you to fully delve into your interests. The many senior researchers have valuable expertise, knowledge and contacts – and they are great mentors. They are keen to help and provide support with writing grants, giving workshops and teaching.

What do you believe has been of greatest benefit to you at AIBN?

The broad range of research being offered at the AIBN, plus the ability to combine research and commercialisation. The AIBN Student Association organises various events throughout the year for the wider AIBN community. Even though it is a large institute, students all know each other, giving the feeling of a large family. It is such a multicultural institute.

What do you do day to day in the lab?

I start most days with tissue processing and performing different assays depending upon my experiment (but in most cases staining for particular cells or their surface markers) and analysing the samples on our multi-photon microscope.

Have you had a chance to travel since coming to AIBN?

Yes, I was so fortunate to present my results at one local and one international conference so far. Further conference attendances are planned for this year.

Where do you see your career heading?

I plan to complete my PhD within the next two years and continue research in industry, followed by commercialisation training. I plan to undertake training to become a (European) Patent Attorney to work either in Australia or in Europe.

In what way do you believe AIBN is setting you up for a successful career?

AIBN has a tight – yet manageable – program to complete your PhD by having three milestones to complete within a timely manner. You are encouraged to publish in high-impact journals and file for patents, if applicable. Students are able to participate in many valuable courses and workshops, covering grant writing, thesis writing, time management and soft skills. And there is the access to state-of-the-art facilities.

What social aspects of AIBN and UQ do you most enjoy?

The AIBN Student Association, monthly barbecues, events organised by the institute or student association, weekly presentations for national and international invited speakers from different backgrounds (research, industry and commercialisation) and the many collaborations between institutes and even universities. The annual AIBN Symposium provides a broad spectrum of research areas that other research groups are working on. AIBN’s location at UQ means students enjoy access to equipment, collaboration and a multicultural environment.

Dr Anthony Musumeci - AIBN graduate and commercialisation analyst

Dr Anthony Musumeci - AIBN graduate and commercialisation analyst

"I would have spent more than a year (out of the three-year candidature) working in different laboratories nationally or internationally."

Access to a network of world leaders in research and cutting-edge facilities attracted Dr Anthony Musumeci to AIBN. Once he arrived to start his PhD, he also found a spirit of collaboration, plenty of support and a chance to travel around the world. Now, Dr Musumeci has graduated and is a Commercial Manager at qutbluebox. Dr Musumeci takes this chance to look back....

Why did you choose AIBN?

I had just finished my Applied Science Degree at QUT and was searching around for a good place to undertake PhD studies. I came across the AIBN website and was quite impressed by the multidisciplinary nature of the institute and the host of new facilities available at the time (in early 2007 when the building first opened). I had a meeting with Darren Martin and Michael Monteiro and was impressed by the quality of research, facilities, opportunities and collaborative culture present within the AIBN.

What most impressed you about the AIBN facilities?

The quality of facilities available and the (generally) hassle free processes involved to gain access to the facilities. Also, the dedicated instrument technicians on all advanced instrumentation ensured that you were able to get the most out of your experiments and the facilities available.

What do you believe AIBN can offer young researchers to give them a head start?

AIBN offers young researchers the opportunity to work in a truly collaborative work place with world-leading researchers and opportunities to travel and experience other research laboratories around the world through AIBN’s extensive contacts.

From your time at AIBN, what do you believe has been of greatest benefit to you?

I appreciate the wholehearted support of my supervisor, Professor Darren Martin, who would bend over backwards to ensure that I had access to the best people and equipment to learn and develop skills throughout my PhD studies.

What did you do day to day in the lab?

On a day-to-day basis in the lab I would commonly be involved in the synthesis and characterisation of a range of different nanoparticles (clay and TiO2). My laboratory experiments were not carried out within a single lab in the AIBN, but rather within multiple labs in the AIBN, Chemistry and Pharmacology to ensure the best outcomes could be achieved.

Were you published while at AIBN – or have you been published since?

Whilst at the AIBN, I published five articles in international peer reviewed journals. I also published in the Royal Australian Chemical Institute magazine and a large number of conference proceedings.

Did you have a chance to travel while at AIBN?

I had the chance to travel extensively at the AIBN. In fact, I would have spent more than a year (out of the three-year candidature) working in different laboratories nationally or internationally and attending conferences. During my PhD, I had the chance to travel to the USA twice – to attend a conference in Boston and then to spend four months working at the Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Labs Chicago. I also had the opportunity to attend international conferences in Switzerland and Amsterdam and also visited work colleagues at Cambridge University. One of the great things about travelling and attending conferences overseas is that it is not all work and there is often the opportunity to do some sightseeing and visit places you otherwise wouldn’t. At a national level, I spent six months working at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation during eight separate visits. I also attended six national conferences in Brisbane, an international conference in Sydney, two international conferences in Melbourne and a national conference in Adelaide.

How has your time at AIBN helped in the work you do now?

The research skills and problem-solving abilities developed during my PhD greatly help me in my day-to-day role at qutbluebox. I tackled complex problems and issues within a collaborative research environment during my PhD - and do in my current role. The expert knowledge of nanomaterials and materials science gained at AIBN has also been beneficial in my current position.

Where do you see your career heading?

I am not completely sure where my career will head. I am happy to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. I am currently completing a Masters of Business Administration and hope to use the skills I have learnt during the PhD and within the commercialisation offices in industry. I hope to stay close to cutting-edge research and make a positive impact for the greater community.

In what way do you believe AIBN set you up for a successful career?

AIBN has set me up for a successful career by allowing me to complete a PhD at a respected institution, under the guidance of world-class researchers. The wealth of contacts made within the AIBN and the research community more broadly will greatly benefit me in my future career endeavours.

What social aspects of AIBN and UQ did you most enjoy?

During my PhD, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the AIBN Student Association (ASA). The ASA is the “social club” of the AIBN. It includes not only students but all staff that work within the institute. Membership is free and they host many fun and informative events throughout the year supported financially by the AIBN Executive Committee and other kind donations. Additionally, there is also quite a good social vibe on each of the large PhD offices within the AIBN and between those on different floors, which makes it easy to meet and interact with other students who do completely different research to what you do on a day-to-day basis. Most of the large research groups often have a good social culture with numerous barbecues and other events held throughout the year.

Dr Yunyi Wong - AIBN graduate and Singapore Polytechnic lecturer

Dr Yunyi Wong - AIBN graduate and Singapore Polytechnic lecturer

"Time at AIBN had enabled me to work easily with people of different disciplines and different nationalities."

Attending conferences around Australia, meeting researchers from a host of disciples and having access to different labs were among the highlights of Dr Yunyi Wong’s time as a PhD student at AIBN. Dr Wong also fondly remembers her colleagues and the cinnamon toast from in-house Cafe Nano. The time at AIBN set her up for a successful career in academia, taking her to the highly-regarded Singapore Polytechnic. Now she takes time to look back...

Why did you choose AIBN for your studies?

I chose AIBN because the ARC Centre of Excellence for Functional Nanomaterials was part of the Institute. I undertook a research project during my undergraduate studies and was very much impressed by the quality of the researchers and research done at the centre. I was interested in the new and exciting field of nanomaterial mediated gene delivery and fortunately there was a PhD project available with the centre.

What did you do and where did you study before coming to AIBN?

I was pursuing a BEng (Chemical) at UQ before I came to AIBN.

What most impressed you about the AIBN facilities?

Most equipment is shared so I had access to equipment in other laboratories at AIBN. I was also impressed by the excellent technical support from the Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis. There are also opportunities for researchers and students to interact.

What do you believe AIBN can offer young researchers to give them a head start?

Lots of interaction with experienced researchers to discuss ideas, share techniques and easy access to equipment in all laboratories at AIBN – and also at other institutions such as Queensland Brain Institute and Institute for Molecular Bioscience. There is also support to attend conferences to network, share and discuss ideas.

From your time at AIBN, what do you believe has been of greatest benefit to you?

Being able to work with people of different disciplines and from them, obtain expertise, guidance and advice.

What did you do day to day in the lab during your studies?

Doing experiments in both AIBN and QBI laboratories, as I had joint supervision from supervisors at both institutions. I also developed leadership skills through supervision of undergraduate or exchange students.

Were you published while at AIBN – or have you been since?

As first author I published in Biomaterials, Volume 31:

Y. Wong, K. Markham, Z.P. Xu, M. Chen, G.Q. Lu, P.F. Bartlett, H.M. Cooper. “Efficient Delivery of siRNA to Cortical Neurons using Layered Double Hydroxide Nanoparticles”. Biomaterials 31. 8770-8779.

The subject area was based on my PhD research. Layered double hydroxides (LDH) are nanoparticles made from inorganic clays. They have been used widely and have only recently emerged as potential drug/ gene delivery systems due to their unique physiochemical properties. I investigated whether LDH are able to complex with genes (like siRNAs) and whether LDH are able to deliver the genes into cells derived from the cortex (cortical neurons). Short interfering RNAs are able to silence or down-regulate genes and thus subsequently stop or reduce the production of the associated proteins. Many neurodegenerative conditions such as Huntington’s Disease are caused by the production of abnormal proteins that results in a gain-of-function phenotype. If there is a way to stop or reduce the production of these abnormal proteins, the symptoms of these conditions will be alleviated.

Did you have a chance to travel while at AIBN while studying?

Yes, I did. I went to an international conference in Singapore, annual ARC Centre of Excellence for Functional Nanomaterials conferences within Australia and to various primary schools at Mount Isa as the Young Nanotechnology Ambassador. I also took frequent holidays within Australia during periods of leave.

How has your time at AIBN helped in the work you do now?

Time at AIBN had enabled me to work easily with people of different disciplines and different nationalities.

What is the work you do now?

I am a lecturer in Chemical Engineering at Singapore Polytechnic.

Where do you see your career heading?

I am still trying to decide. I wanted to take a break from research – thus went into teaching. I may slowly take up research or even venture into business.

In what way do you believe AIBN set you up for a successful career?

The in-house seminars enabled me to have some understanding of different disciplines. I am able to work in multi-disciplinary projects. The bi-annual seminars by postgraduate students arranged by my centre also enabled me to practise my presentation skills.

What social aspects of AIBN and UQ did you most enjoy?

Gatherings such as the Christmas lunch and morning teas at Cafe Nano. The cinnamon toast is unforgettable.

On this site

Go to top