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23 Feb 2021

Westpac names Garvan PhD student as Future Leader

Garvan PhD student Monica Phimmachanh receives a highly competitive Future Leaders scholarship.

The Westpac Scholars Trust has awarded Garvan PhD student Monica Phimmachanh a $120,000 Future Leaders Scholarship to support her research in the Network Biology Lab over the next three years.

The Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship is awarded annually to a select group of postgraduate students from around Australia whose studies impact on technology and innovation, fostering Australian-Asian ties, or positive social change.

Monica’s PhD project ties into the first theme by using Garvan’s high-throughput data analytics capability to determine the complex biological roles of a class of enzymes known as histone deacetylases.

The project aims to dissect the enigmatic function of these enzymes and their ability to influence a number of important biological processes by allowing a specific subset of genes to be switched on and off in different tissues. Dysregulation of these enzymes has been implicated in diseases such as cancer, heart disease, neurologic and metabolic disorders.

Associate Professor David Croucher, Head of the Network Biology Lab, says “we really warmly congratulate Monica on achieving this highly competitive and prestigious scholarship. Monica has done an excellent job making it through multiple rounds of interviews by illustrating how her research could help improve health outcomes for a number of diseases.”

Monica has already been working in this field for the last two years as a research assistant within the Network Biology Lab after completing a Bachelor of Biomedical Science with honours at the University of Technology Sydney.

On top of the financial support of her PhD, Monica will also undertake a nine-month leadership program and gain access to the Westpac 100 Scholars Network – a collective of all beneficiaries of the Westpac Scholars Trust that helps facilitate collaboration and innovation.

“The scholarship is wonderful opportunity that will prime me to develop strong leadership skills. The Westpac 100 Scholars network is a vastly collaborative environment and I’m looking forward to seeking advice from like-minded individuals and scholars from different backgrounds and all walks of life,” Monica says.

“The scholarship also facilitates collaborative research and gives me the opportunity to collaborate with international research labs and establish and maintain my own professional collaborative relationships.”

She says the substantial resources at the Garvan Institute and international connections established through the Westpac 100 Scholars Network will be critical to completing her PhD and establishing her career as a researcher.

“Overall I am so excited about the future opportunities this scholarship will grant me including the ability to grow, learn and communicate my findings and ideas to colleagues, future students and the general public, to drive social discussion and become a voice for young scientists in the community.”