Past TEP grant recipient Alexandra George, PhD, currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, received a Trainee Travel Fund (TTF) grant in 2019. The grant enabled Dr. George to travel to Singapore and work with collaborators at the visit the Singapore Lipidomics Incubator research group of the National University of Singapore and the University of Western Australia. During her short-term work in Singapore, Dr. George had the opportunity to learn new mass spectrometry methods for investigating the human milk lipidome, as well as share existing knowledge on human milk lipids. In addition to the new skills she developed, the experience confirmed for her that her research is important both to her personally and to the world.
Following the completion of her TTF experience, Dr. George applied for and was awarded a Trainee Bridge Fund grant in 2020.
About her TTF experience, Dr. George said:
“Without the TTF this trip would not have been possible. I took samples from my Australian cohort along with me and we obtained some very exciting results together, which will be published very soon. From this experience I have gained new collaborators and friends, shared and gained knowledge, and have since been invited to speak about human milk lipids at a conference in Singapore.”
Dr. George’s TTF-enabled work contributed to the study Untargeted lipidomics using liquid chromatography-ion mobility-mass spectrometry reveals novel triacylglycerides in human milk, published in Scientific Reports in June 2020.
(Link to PDF or online full-text study: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-66235-y)
We recently had the opportunity to do a Q&A with Dr. George. Here are her answers in her own words:
Q1: What is your current research area?
My research focuses on identifying human milk lipids that are bioactive and involved in the benefits associated with human milk and breastfeeding, specifically reduced diabetes and obesity risk. Despite all the incredible human milk research in progress around the world, we do not yet completely understand the mechanisms through which human milk exerts all the positive short- and long-term benefits for the newborn infant. This is what I aim to contribute to with my work.
Q2: How has the TEP grant impacted your research?
During my PhD studies the TEP TTF grant allowed me to travel to Singapore to conduct collaborative research at the National University of Singapore. Full immersion in a new place, experiencing new scientific techniques and discussing new topics every day for three months enhanced my research in many ways. In addition to the new skills that I developed, my existing scientific knowledge was improved beyond what I ever thought possible. This experience also confirmed that I am involved in research that is both important to the world and to myself.
Q3: What new skills have you developed as a result of your TEP grant experience? What existing skills have you enhanced?
One area I gained enhanced skills in is collaboration, something often not developed during PhD studies (or certainly not to the extent I was given). I now feel confident to plan, communicate with, and organize other scientists in order to develop and optimize a project. These skills have also proven invaluable in project management.
Q4: Can you express what the TEP grant means to you and your research?
I continue to use the skills and knowledge that I gained during my TEP TTF program every day since my trip to Singapore. Human milk lipidomics and other compositional analyses are not simple and require in depth troubleshooting, method development, knowledge and collaboration. I benefit everyday in my research from the TEP TTF program.
Q5: What piece of advice would you give a TEP grant applicant?
To all future TEP grant applicants, in a world where research is so diverse and funding is so competitive, the TEP is an incredible opportunity for you to receive funding specifically for human milk and lactation research. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance and support from past awardees or members of ISRHML!
If you are an early career researcher with a focus on human milk and lactation like Alexandra George, consider applying for a Trainee Expansion Program grant when applications open 1 August 2021.