Never underestimate the importance of medical research

Kristy Kwong, Fei-Ju Li, and Ainsley Davies at JCSMR
12 July 2022

On Thursday, Ainsley Davies, Kristy Kwong and Fei-Ju Li will graduate from the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) with a PhD.  

For all three of them, this achievement has been a long time coming. 

Their doctoral research primarily focuses on genetic immune disorders and investigates which gene malfunctions cause various diseases in patients.  

"You quickly realise that the work you are doing can change lives," Ainsley says.  

Ahead of their graduation ceremony, it's evident that they are not only bound by their extraordinary intellect, but also by their friendship.  

Ainsley and Kristy have studied and worked together for years.  

"We work together and have always helped each other," Kristy says.  

When asked about their experiences at JCSMR, Ainsley remarks how she enjoyed transitioning between the different stages of medical research.  

"I went from being a student to a researcher and now to a staff member. Along the way I feel I have always belonged to a nice cohort." 

Reflecting on her own student experience, Kristy adds that she really enjoyed the PARSA 'Shut Up and Write' initiative, which catered to the emotional part of the stress from writing her thesis.   

"It was fantastic to attend these sessions and feel like you weren't alone," Kristy says.  

Moreover, Fei-Ju explains how rewarding her PhD experience has been.  

"You are the one driving the project." 

ICU patients are the primary target of Fei-Ju's research, in which she looks at how immune responses help control bacterial infections. 

Their research has led to some ground-breaking results.  

"We have found results that don't apply to just one patient, but rather to a whole disease group," Ainsley explains.  

"Our results teach us something about the immune system that we otherwise wouldn't have known." 

After submitting their theses last year, Ainsley, Kristy and Fei-Ju are now Technical Officers at the JCSMR, providing expert scientific advice to staff, clients and stakeholders regarding phenotyping of human and mouse cells. 

Investigating immune response to bacterial infections has been very timely during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the impact COVID can have on an immunosuppressed patient. 

A large component of Ainsley, Kristy and Fei-Ju's research aims to support patients who are immunocompromised. They hope to make a difference by figuring out how the body responds to certain infections. 

Kristy says her research has given her a sense of responsibility in explaining how vaccines work and how important they are in the fight against COVID-19.  

For Ainsley, the pandemic has given her research a fresh perspective and a passion she will carry throughout her career.  

"COVID has made me more passionate about my research since I have the knowledge to stand up and explain just how important medical research is today."