When Dr Ivan Gladwyn-Ng chose to undertake his PhD at ARMI, under the supervision of Dr Julian Heng, he had a clear vision for his future. He knew he didn’t want to stay in academia and become a lab head. He knew he loved cytoskeletal proteins and the amazing videos scientists produced. And he knew his work had to have a translational aspect.
“My PhD had to be a translational project. I knew I wanted to study something that was related to a human condition or disease. So to me, developmental, regenerative medicine or child-related or adult-related pathologies were the kinds of projects I was looking at, especially if there were opportunities to develop therapeutics.”
“My PhD had to be a translational project. I knew I wanted to study something that was related to a human condition or disease…”
For his PhD, Ivan worked to identify and characterise novel genetic factors that control cytoskeletal remodelling to promote neuronal maturation and differentiation during cerebral cortex development. Here, he spent a considerable amount of time generating mouse models and characterising these models through the lens of brain development.
Recalling his time at ARMI, Ivan remembers the rigorous but productive scientific discussions he had with postdocs and fellow students along the corridors and in the common areas of ARMI. “Back when I was a PhD student, it was professional, open, transparent. I really appreciated it when my co-workers and mates would call me out for what it was, telling me, ‘Ivan, this is not a good idea.’ At ARMI, there’s the coffee area, as well as some of the breakout spaces with a whiteboard. And I remember many afternoon coffee breaks and Friday nights drink sessions when we would gather to chat and ask each other, ‘you said that, but why don’t you try that?’ The atmosphere was great.”
“Back when I was a PhD student, it was professional, open, transparent…The atmosphere was great.”
Ivan has managed to pursue his vision for his future and more, not only during his time at ARMI but also through his postdoctoral studies in Perth, France and Belgium. Today, he is a Regional Leader of Field Application Scientist at Taconic Biosciences based in Germany. He is developing innovative mouse and rat models for preclinical testing of novel therapeutics and collaborating with scientists from both industry and academia all over Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
The pivot to industry from academia was an opportunity Ivan had seized when his work as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Liège and KU Leuven resulted in a number of publications and patent applications. It was his expertise in multiple in vivo animal models and rodent surgical techniques, a skill he started fostering at ARMI, as well as his unique experience in studying the Zika, West Nile and Yellow Fever flaviviruses along with developing vaccines for ZIKV that made Ivan an attractive prospect to industry.
Despite leaving academia, Ivan still maintains contact with his former ARMI peers and fellow researchers; from technical guidance and reading theses as well as writing referral letters, to attending weddings and Christmas gatherings in Europe. “However, due to COVID-19, we haven’t been able to meet for the past 12 months. But we have a WhatsApp group and just had a video chat a few weeks ago.”
Undoubtedly, Ivan has carved a path for himself in the world of biomedical research, matching his ambition with hard work and creative thinking. Reflecting on what drives him, Ivan comments, “I would say it’s personal. As an undergraduate student, I was intimately aware of the high incidence of cancer, neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases in my family. Losing my dad and both my grandmothers during my undergraduate studies at Monash was particularly difficult. It was my family that drove and inspired me. In fact, my brothers are also biologists.”