Thesis: Finding a project and a supervisor


Coming up with a topic for my Masters thesis has been quite a challenge. But even before settling on a topic, it has been a four month search for the right area and people do work alongside. I have looked at doing something with a strong industry flavour, had discussions with a couple of companies (one local, one up north), I have had meetings and advice from friends, mentors and really helpful researchers around the university. In the end I came to realise that this more than likely my last time at university, and the last chance I will have to do something really different and just for the fun of it! Add to this the realisation that what I really need for this project is some interesting data and someone exceptional to work alongside and mentor me.

During my search for a project I got to meet Associate Professor Mik Black. Mik is a bioinformatics guru, working alongside a number of geneticists and clinical researchers in cancer and gout research. Mik works closely with Associate Professor Tony Merriman who is largely interested in identifying genetic risk factors that contribute to gout. From my purely selfish perspective, the opportunity to work alongside both Mik and Tony is too good to pass up. Mik has the expertise in bioinformatics and the analysis of large-scale data, and Tony has the data and the application. Its perfect.

Its been a while now since our first meeting. I first met Mik in April and we discussed a little about what I needed from a project and he explained some of the potential opportunities that he might have. A week or two later I met with both Mik and Tony to discuss some of the challenges Tony has with his data (the biggest challenge seems to be that there is just so much of it and not enough time to analyse it all!). Clearly, there is a lot of opportunity here for me and with some benefit also to their work. It’s a good fit. And so I am jumping head first into genomics…

Finding a research area and a supervisor has been such a big goal for the first part of this year. But I can’t relax yet. The biggest challenge is still to come, identifying my specific research question. With such limited experience in genetics and genomics (I don’t think a second year genetics paper from 2002 (pre-genomics) really counts for much!) I have a substantial learning curve ahead. But I will leave this for another post.


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