Blog / 11 April 2019

Hailing from Brazil, Luana Santos is in the midst of a PhD at the University of São Paulo, investigating the molecular mechanisms that drive heart development. To this end, Luana has made the long journey to Australia to spend one year under the supervision of Dr Mirana Ramialison at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI). Here, she hopes to delve deep into the highly specialised bioinformatics space in which the Ramialison Group excels.

From an early age, Luana Santos was always fascinated at how humans developed from one single cell (a zygote, which develops after an egg is fertilised). She wanted to understand how a complex being, with different and specialised cells, tissues and organs, could all originate from something so small. “What are the messages behind the embryo development that drives each cell to the right fate? This is the main question that drives me in science,” said Luana. She was determined to find answers, which led her to complete a Bachelor degree in Biology at University of Campinas (UNICAMP, Brazil). But that wasn’t enough- she wanted to know more, so she decided to undertake an Honor Doctorate at University of São Paulo (USP, Brazil) under the supervision of Dr José Xaxier Neto. Today, she finds herself halfway across the world in Australia. As a visiting PhD student, Luana hopes to expand her skill set, and to gain new insights and knowledge for her professional development and to take back to her native Brazil.

Luana Santos, a visiting PhD student from Brazil.
Luana Santos, a visiting PhD student from Brazil.

While at ARMI, Luana will be embedded within the Ramialison Group, building on the work she has already undertaken for her PhD project investigating the underlying molecular mechanisms that determine cardiac atria specification (that is, the process where the atrial chambers of the heart develop in a growing foetus). So far, Luana has discovered a particular atrial-selective pathway that plays a role in heart development and she wants to further explore this with the power of bioinformatics. “Mirana Ramialison and her group have the skill in deep and sophisticated global analyses of gene expression and transcription factors prediction to contribute to our research,” stated Luana. Leveraging this expertise, Luana aims to determine whether this specific pathway is conserved across different species. This means using some of biomedical research’s latest, most exciting and innovative tools, including the genome editing system CRISPR/Cas9, RNA sequencing and bioinformatics software.

“Mirana Ramialison and her group have the skill in deep and sophisticated global analyses of gene expression and transcription factors prediction to contribute to our research.”

These student exchanges are a testament to ARMI’s commitment to strengthening its international linkages, particularly with our South American neighbours, opening the door for new collaborations and the exchange of novel ideas, both in and out of the lab. While scientific research is an endeavour that transcends arbitrary borders, different regions have different strengths, different levels of access to the latest technology and different laboratory cultures. Travelling beyond the confines of one’s borders endows researchers with a broader tool kit to draw upon. “This experience is unique in my professional and personal life. It’s the first international step in my career, a wonderful opportunity to interact and be exposed to the ways of thinking of other researchers, and also be part of a highly competitive institution but in a friendly atmosphere,” reflected Luana, understanding the importance of gaining experience and developing networks in a global context.

"This experience is unique in my professional and personal life. It’s the first international step in my career, a wonderful opportunity to interact and be exposed to the ways of thinking of other researchers, and also be part of a highly competitive institution but in a friendly atmosphere."

On a personal note, Luana is enjoying interacting and living with people from different countries and cultures, learning English and exploring Melbourne. While the overall experience of living in a different environment and speaking another language is proving a challenge, Luana believes that with such experiences, “at the end of the process you’ll be strong and prepared for everything in life.” One aspect that Luana that has noticed during her time at ARMI, and one she finds encouraging, is how our researchers are concerned about gender equality and the number and type of opportunities for women in science. Luana whoreheartedly believes in this message and hopes that this concerted effort will become more widespread around the world; encouraging more girls and women to pursue careers in science.

We wish Luana all the best for her time at ARMI and in Melbourne!

 

More information

The Ramialison Group is studying development and disease. They are a multidisciplinary team of computational and molecular biologists who specialise in genomics, using new genomic technology to delineate the cardiac gene regulatory networks, and to work out what leads to proper heart formation and what causes congenital heart disease. For more information on Dr Mirana Ramialison and the Ramialison Group, please visit the Ramialison Group page. You can contact Dr Ramialison via mirana.ramialison@monash.edu. You can also follow the Ramialison Group on Twitter @ramialison_lab.

Read more about the research that is being conducted by members of the Ramialison Group and the international collaborations of which the Group is a part.