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Talking with Dr Ying Wong, Career Support and Travel Grants Recipient

October 07, 2022

JDRF’s Career Support and Travel Grants for domestic and international travel are designed to support the next generation of type 1 diabetes (T1D) clinical care by enabling early to mid-career researchers and allied health professionals to gain new skills, exchange knowledge, and establish connections and collaborations.  

We recently spoke to Dr Ying Wong, postdoctoral research at the University of Adelaide, about her experience being awarded a recent travel grant. Read on to hear about her immunology research and attendance at the World Immune Regulation Meeting in Switzerland.    

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your area of research.

I’m an early-career researcher from the University of Adelaide, where I’m part of the molecular immunology team led by Professor Simon Barry. My research aims to identify the genetic and epigenetic changes that contribute to type 1 diabetes (T1D).  

Currently, the understanding of why people develop T1D is poorly understood, but there appears to be a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors that lead to a breakdown in the immune system. My research is aiming to better understand how and why that process happens and determine ways to detect it prior to the loss of insulin producing cells, hopefully assisting the development of interventions that prevent T1D progression.  

What prompted you to apply for the JDRF Career Support and Travel Grant?

I applied to seek funding support as I wanted the opportunity to attend and present my T1D research at the 16th World Immune Regulation Meeting (WIRM) held in Davos, Switzerland.  

WIRM showcases world-leading, cutting-edge immunology research in the areas of autoimmunity and allergy, and attending this conference would allow me to contribute and learn about the most recent advances in the research areas that I am passionate about. 

My supervisor, Professor Simon Barry, was also very supportive of me applying and the prospect of being able to travel for my research, as he values professional growth and upskilling to aid my career progression.  

What was your experience like when you were awarded the Grant?

It was great, especially as it felt fantastic to be able to travel again after years of significant pandemic restrictions!  

The WIRM was my first international conference where I was given the opportunity to present my PhD research through an oral presentation. It was such a rewarding learning experience as this conference brought together some of the world-leading immunology scientists and enabled me to network with other post-doctoral and student delegates from all different countries and backgrounds.  

I was thrilled to learn that my presentation was awarded the Best Workshop Presentation Award in the conference, and I received positive feedback from the judging panel and general audience. Coming from internationally renowned researchers such as Professor Klaus Warnatz and Dr Thomas Conlon, particularly on the experimental strategy of my current research, this was really encouraging. 

There was a great balance of social interactions as well, with the student organising committee even taking us on a short tour to a scenic (and adventurous!) ride and sightseeing at Davos Wiesen during our lunch break. The view was breathtaking and there I had the chance to engage with other delegates such as Dr Thiruni Adikari (UNSW, Australia) and Yasmine Messaoud-Nacer (French National Centre for Scientific Research, France).  

While I was in Switzerland, I also had the opportunity to visit my immunology team’s research collaborator, Dr Simone Picelli and his team, to learn a new single-cell RNA sequencing technique called FLASH-seq [1] that has recently been developed. This is a strong area of interest for me, and the experience was invaluable. Following my training I am now competent in performing both FLASH-seq and bioinformatics data analysis, and migration of this technology to Australia will attract significant interests and partnerships which may lead to high impact publications in the future. 

I am extremely grateful for the support given by JDRF as this learning experience has allowed me to grow and improve my professional skills. I have been able to expand my professional network and acquire highly sought-after, transferable skill sets beneficial for career development. 

What’s the best thing about being able to travel internationally and its connection to your research?

Europe is one of the most prolific publishers of top-quality research in the world with astonishing rapidity in the field of genomics. It houses some of the most influential, highest-performing research institutes in the world, and is known as a desired destination for researchers. I feel very privileged to be able to meet, interact with and learn from such a high-calibre group of exceptional leaders in science. This experience has broadened my future career development options, and further solidified my career goals and research focus in the field of T1D and genomics.  

Applications for the Grant are now open for early-mid career researcher or allied health professionals travelling between 1 November 2022 and 30 April 2023.  

Funding will enable the recipients to participate in national or international scientific conferences, visit a laboratory or complete a short training course, with: 

  • $1,000 provided for virtual conferences or short training courses 
  • Up to $2,000 provided for domestic travel within Australia  
  • Up to $4,000 provided for international 

Applications must be submitted by 5pm Monday, 21 October 2022. For more information and to apply, click here