Focus on PhD candidate Guneet Bindra

Self-proclaimed ‘Small Scientist’ Guneet Bindra is anything but. She may stand a tad under 150cm tall (4’11ft) but with a first-author paper under her belt, the strength of Guneet’s drive and ability is by no means slight.

Guneet Bindra is a final year PhD Candidate at the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS). Before that she was a Bachelor of Biomedicine (Honours) student at La Trobe University, where LIMS is based. She knows every nook and cranny of La Trobe’s sprawling Melbourne campus and could guide you blindfolded through the LIMS building.

But the place she knows best is the Hulett Lab on Level 5 of LIMS, where Guneet carries out her research that focusses on innate immunology and the role defensins have in protecting our bodies against microbial and tumour threats.

More specifically, Guneet has been undertaking investigations into the role beta-human defensin 2 (HBD-2) plays in killing cancer cells. Guneet has been successful in showing how defensins protect our bodies against cancers. Her research has identified the possibility of HBD-2 being used as an anti-cancer therapeutic. A discovery that was recently published in the Biomolecules journal.

Guneet Bindra photo

A first-author paper in a peer reviewed journal is an outstanding achievement for someone still working towards their PhD. ‘I am very happy to have achieved this, especially when I think about the many disruptions to lab work encountered over the last two years of COVID-19 restrictions,’ said Guneet Bindra.

Of course, Guneet did not achieve her first-author paper without the support and assistance of other researchers in the Hulett and Poon Labs at LIMS including her co-supervisor Dr Kha Phan. ‘I owe gratitude to my supervisors and colleagues who worked with me on this paper,’ said Guneet.

‘The culture of LIMS and the people who work I work with are amazing. The science facilities are world-class but it is the friendly atmosphere I enjoy the most. Sometimes I forget what I do is actually “work”!’

Guneet is a driven final year PhD candidate at LIMS but she realises there’s a life outside the lab. “With doing a PhD, I find that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important to take your mind off a stressful day at work,” declared Guneet. She has even been known to deadlift more than her weight at the gym!

Guneet Bindra painting photo

In person Guneet is warm and outgoing. A personality that has managed to shine through to the digital world. With over 10,000 Instagram followers, Guneet has established a thriving network of people who turn to her for the fun side of science at @thesmallscientist

All of this is quite an achievement for someone who was discouraged to pursue a career in science whilst at secondary school. ‘Your high school experiences do not define your future path,’ proclaims Gunnet. ‘If you want something enough you will find a way to make it happen. Trust yourself.’

Guneet Bindra is the type of person that draws others into her net of what seems like permanent sunshine and is on her way to a career in science. Watch this space.