A day with Alice Chen - Lung and Allergy Research Centre

Posted by CK Tan on 31 October 2016 | Comments

Alice C ChenYour brief biography

I graduated from the University of Queensland in 2006 with a BSc in Microbiology. In 2007, I received a UQ Honours Degree in Molecular Biosciences at the UQ Diamantina Institute, investigating the prevalence of Human papillomavirus (HPV) in skin. Following from that research I continued to work with the same lab, investigating the prevalence of HPV in various cancers. In 2010, I began my PhD training at Mater Medical Research Institute. My work involved characterising the inflammatory patterns in patients with bronchiectasis, and investigating how long-term low-dose antibiotics therapy benefits patients with bronchiectasis. After completing my PhD, I joined the Lung and Allergy Research Centre, investigating the immune response of nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae in children with protracted bacterial bronchitis. In 2015, I received funding from the CRE in Respiratory Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children to continue my work in understanding how immune cell functions in patients with protracted bacterial bronchitis.


What is your current area of work?

My current area of work is about characterizing the microbiome and inflammatory patterns in chronic respiratory diseases. The goal of our team is to understand how the microbes shape our immune system, and how this may result in chronic respiratory diseases. 


What drew you to microbiology?

I have been a difficult asthmatic kid since I was little, which made me a regular at the local paediatric clinic. The desire to know more about my own health condition got me interested in reading various health related articles. The more I read about diseases, the more I fall in love with microbiology, simply because they are cool little creatures that we struggle so much to fight against! After I started my undergrad degree majoring in Microbiology, the various mechanisms that microbes do to invade and escape from our host immune response got me more and more captivated by them!


What does a standard day involve for you?

Unlike people who can do 100 different things at a time, juggling experiments, manuscript writing, meetings, supervising students and all that in a day, I can only focus in a few things at a time. I prefer getting in to work early, and get everything organised before the lab gets too busy. I like to have all the meetings finished before 10am so I can start my day J Since I have trouble doing experiments and writing at the same time, I usually split my work into “experiment days” and “writing days”. On my “experiment days”, I like to jump between different work benches doing multiple experiments so I am not wasting the incubation time. On my “writing days”, I completely focus at writing and literature reading.


How do you like to spend your time outside the work? 

I enjoy my time with family and friends. Coming from a big family, spending time with my loved ones is very important to me. I also enjoy learning different cultures and getting to know people with different background and experiences. I started practicing oriental dance (or more commonly known as belly dance) towards the end of my PhD. It helps me to switch off from work, and just enjoy the music and dance!


What advice would you give to students/ECRs who are pursuing a career in research?

Stay naïve. What I learnt throughout my science career is that staying naïve and question things you read is very important. The naivety you had when you first start in this career is pure treasure, and that’s what will drive you along finding interesting new breakthroughs.


Lung and Allergy Research Centre facebook page:


UQ Researcher profile: http://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/12975

LinkedIn: https://au.linkedin.com/in/alice-che-ha-chen-05059339  

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