Alexandra Gurzau

Alexandra Gurzau

Researchers in the lab
Honours student Alexandra Gurzau (right) with
her supervisor Dr James Murphy

Ms Alexandra Gurzau joined the Institute for her Honours studies, working in the field of epigenetics. She is now continuing as a PhD student in the same area. Here's what she thought about being an Honours student with us.
Why did you choose the Institute for your Honours year?

When I attended Student Open Day as an undergraduate, two things really appealed to me: the Institute’s strong student community and all the student events, including the annual retreat; and the large number of interesting projects on offer that spanned a wide variety of research fields.

What do you see as the benefits of doing Honours at the Institute?

Apart from having access to the latest tools and technology, the Institute hosts some of the country's leading researchers. This is probably the most valuable resource for us students. As a student I’ve also benefited from hearing from the many recognised scientists who visit the Institute from all parts of the world. 

What is the subject of your Honours research?

I’m studying a protein called SMCHD1 that controls the function of other genes – an epigenetic regulator. SCMHD1 is crucial for many processes in development and adulthood, and defects in this protein can cause a common form of muscular dystrophy, but no one yet really understands how it works. I’m looking at the structure and function of SMCHD1, and in the process I’ve learnt many techniques that are relevant to a range of different research fields.

What does a typical working day involve?

Usually my day starts in the lab, setting up new experiments. Many of my experiments have long incubation times and can often last a full day. While I wait I update my lab notebook or attend seminars. On the days when I don’t have much lab work I often read new journal articles, as keeping up with the scientific literature is really important. 

What did you do before starting Honours? 

I studied a Bachelor of Biomedicine majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology at The University of Melbourne.