3 September 2010

A U.S. science graduate who has been awarded a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship to study for a year at The University of Queensland hopes to advance understanding of the causes of human diseases.

Lindsey Murphy is particularly interested in some cancers and muscular dystrophy that result from specific genetic defects that disrupt normal function of cells.

"Increasing our understanding of these processes may help us to develop new tools to fight these diseases,” she said.

Ms Murphy recently graduated from Pepperdine University in California with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Mathematics.

She will undertake research in molecular biology at UQ, focusing on the possible relationship between certain processes in the surface of cells and the development of diseases.

“All living organisms are sustained through regulated processes within the cell," she said.

"These processes are amazingly complex and are responsible for the organisation and function of all living entities.

“The outer boundary of a cell is known as the cell membrane and is responsible for communication between cells.

"Most mammalian cell types contain small cavities in the cell membrane known as caveolae.

"These caveolae are rich in proteins that are essential for communication between cells and regulation of cellular processes.

“A key type of protein, known as cavins, plays a major role in the structure and formation of caveolae.

"Several types of diseases are linked to inefficient caveolae formation, including breast and prostate cancer as well as muscular dystrophy and lipodystrophy.”

Ms Murphy will investigate the molecular pathways involved in the formation of caveolae with Professor Robert Parton at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Professor Parton and his team are world leaders in the research of caveolae in cell membranes.

She said that working with Professor Parton and his team would assist greatly in her development as a research scientist, and hopefully would open some doorways for understanding caveolae formation and their association with human disease.

While at Pepperdine University receiving her Bachelor of Science, Lindsey studied abroad in Argentina and England.

In addition, Lindsey is an accomplished dancer. She has been dancing for 18 years, and dances competitively. She has also been a member of the honours societies, Phi Delta Epsilon, Pi Mu Epsilon and Phi Beta Phi.

The prestigious Fulbright program is the largest educational scholarship of its kind, created by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright and the U.S. Government in 1946. Aimed at promoting mutual understanding through educational exchange, it operates between the U.S. and 155 countries. In Australia, the scholarships are funded by the Australian and U.S. Governments and corporate partners and administered by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission in Canberra.

Ms Murphy is one of 20 talented Americans to be recognised as a Fulbright Scholar in 2010. For more details, visit: www.fulbright.com.au