Focus on Nicholas Smith

What does a Captain in the Royal Australian Armoured Corps and a molecular scientist have in common? They are both roles held by LIMS postdoctoral research fellow, Dr Nicholas Smith.

At the outset there does not seem to be much overlap by someone who spends their days using state-of-the-art supercomputers to simulate and model proteins that cannot be seen by the naked eye, compared to a commander of Army personnel and protected mobility vehicles. But there’s more synergies than you might think, suggests Dr Smith.

‘Both roles demand a necessity to act in a precise and methodical manner to ensure a high level of accuracy and effectiveness.

‘And the skills of teamwork and problem solving are essential for both Army officers and academic researchers,’ said Dr Smith.

When he is not in active service with the 4th/19th Prince of Wales’s Light Horse Regiment (part of Victoria’s 4th Brigade), Dr Smith can usually be found on the sixth floor of the LIMS building at La Trobe University. As a Postdoctoral Research Fellow within Professor Brian Smith’s Lab, Nicholas researches Conologues, ultra-fast acting therapeutic insulins based on cone snail venom principles. It is his hope that these insulin-like toxins might be able to be used in the design of insulin therapeutics that may lead to better treatment of diabetes.

Dr Nicholas Smith has been working in Professor Brian Smith’s laboratory since he began his PhD under the supervision of Professor Smith in 2015.

‘Working at LIMS is fantastic. We have some of the best researchers in the field but more-so, there’s a really strong community that fosters collaboration. There are numerous opportunities to collaborate externally as well,’ said Dr Nicholas Smith.

‘We also have significant access to equipment essential to my research, such as High Performance Computing (HPC) facilities, The Australian Synchrotron and the Proteomics Platform. The equipment at La Trobe and more specifically, LIMS, has consistently kept up to date with the best across Australia,’ continued Nicholas.

It requires a steady hand and open mind to tackle the complexities of molecular science. It was with this composure that Nicholas approached the diverse challenges of his Army Reserve position in 2020 and 2021. First, as part of Operation Bushfire Assist in Gippsland in response to the devastating bushfires. And second, as a member of Operation COVID-19 Assist, supporting the Victorian Department of Health with planning.

Moving into 2022, Dr Smith looks forward to more traditional duties as part of the Army Reserve and to extending upon his research towards more effective insulin therapeutics for those affected by diabetes.

Learn more about Dr Nicholas Smith’s research and the work of Professor Brian Smith’s Lab.