Alisha Tromp was Professor Bryan Mowry’s PhD student in 2019. She prepared this video for the 2019 Queensland Women in STEM Prize.

Project summary

One in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness during their lifetime and half of these people will not be properly diagnosed or treated.

One form of mental illness gripping our community is schizophrenia and this disease, if left untreated, is quite often irreversible. This affects the person’s wellbeing, family and friends and also places a huge burden on our health system and costs our economy billions of dollars in lost productivity.

To understand Schizophrenia is to try assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle which involves many different genes or pieces that make this puzzle. Through our collaboration with the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, we have identified a number of schizophrenia associated genes and what I’m passionate about is how each gene will contribute to the overall development of this disease which will shed considerable light on the mechanism of this disease.

2. How does your project benefit Queensland? (maximum 500 words)

My project supervisor Prof. Bryan Mowry at the Queensland Brain institute is a research lead at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR) and through our ongoing collaboration with them, we have collected samples from human studies that have identified novel genes with a close association with Schizophrenia. Deciphering the functions of these novel genes and studying it’s mechanism will put Queensland on the forefront of mental health research. This will open doors to drug treatments and enable better diagnosis of the disease which affects young Queenslanders, saving our Queensland health system billions of dollars in lost productivity and in return strengthening the economy.

3. What STEM promotion/engagement activities do you do/have you done? (maximum 500 words)

I’ve been a Science ambassador representing my lab at Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) for the past 1 year. I’ve done an oral presentation of my work at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR) in May 2018 demonstrating the different techniques we’ve built in our lab to try and understand the function of genes which have a strong link to Schizophrenia. I’ve also attended two student symposiums arranged by QBI and spend time to attend seminars around the campus to know about the cool research that goes on. I have also presented my work at the Australian Neuroscience Society in December last year in Brisbane and got the chance to interact with some great scientists. I’ve attended the World Science festival twice and entered the Art in Science competition at QBI last year. I also volunteered to help at the Brain Bee finals in 2018.

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