Meet Andrew Formosa (pictured above) a PhD candidate investigating better ways to analyse proteins to improve the development of pharmaceutical drugs.
It was Formosa’s Honours year that gave him valuable direction.
“I was introduced to research and the potential career outcomes that come with it,” he explains. “After achieving first-class honours in Physics, I was offered a scholarship to support me through my PhD studies. It was an opportunity that I couldn't refuse, and I haven’t looked back.”
Formosa’s research is investigating how to better analyse protein structures.
“Pharmaceutical drugs work by binding to a particular site on a protein. Scientists need to know the structure of these proteins, which is determined with X-rays, to develop drugs. However, the tough experimental conditions cause protein degradation which reduces the quality and quantity of data that can be collected,” he explains.
“My research seeks to find ways to improve protein stability so they can withstand the experimental conditions longer, enabling more accurate structure analysis. The goal is to find a cost-effective alternative and fast-track the development of new drugs.”
Rebecca Griffin, a graduate of our Bachelor of Science (Honours)/Master of Nanotechnology degree, is now completing a Doctor of Philosophy in Physics.
“I am investigating how we can make diamond microprocessor chips for quantum computers,” she explains. “Quantum computing is an emerging technology which processes information in a different way to classical computers – it is perfect for tackling complex problems like molecular modelling and machine learning.”
Most quantum computers need to be kept at very low temperatures to function, limiting their use outside of specialised facilities.
“Diamond-based quantum computers could function at room temperature, making them cheaper and more portable,” says Griffin. “I am working in a team, alongside Quantum Brilliance, to develop a fabrication technique so we can produce diamonds with the features we need, right down to the atomic scale.”
“I hope my research leads to cheaper and more accessible quantum computers.”
Sarah Bamford, a PhD candidate in physics, is developing the properties of materials at the molecular level.
“I am using a technique which allows us to determine the chemical properties of surfaces at scales smaller than a human hair,” she explains. “We can then map what is happening chemically, and where to identify signs of material degradation or failure invisible to the human eye.”
Bamford is developing a library of materials, including plastics, electronics and aerospace materials.
“I am using machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, to analyse the library and help us pin-point molecular-level similarities between materials,” she explains.
“We hope to use this technology to better understand why materials work the way they do, deconstruct complex failures and degradation processes, and design new fit-for-purpose materials.”