Bond University
This (kidney stones) too shall pass

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SUMMARY

The aim of my research program is to find effective medical treatments for passing kidney stones. Although kidney stone development is not considered a debilitating disease, it is well known that the pain of passing stones is probably one of the most excruciating pains someone can experience. I investigate the physiology and pharmacology of the urinary tract, particularly the smooth muscle tube connecting the kidneys and bladder known as the ureter. This is the most common site for kidney stone lodgement to cause pain. In my investigation, I look to find pharmacological treatments and targets that might reduce pain and improve the passage rate of these stones. This is a cheaper and less invasive treatment that current treatments commonly used like surgical procedures and utilising sound waves. 

BENEFIT – A description of the benefit of your work to Queensland (max 500 words)

Within the urinary tract, most focus and attention are directed to bladder physiology and pharmacology as the most severe urinary tract symptoms present as a result of bladder diseases like overactive bladder and interstitial cystitis. Consequently, there is a significant gap of knowledge in the pharmacology and physiology of the ureter, particularly in understanding what controls its contractions, which if elucidated, could result in discovery of new targets for urinary tract stone passage. I am confident that the outcomes of my research program will result in significant outcomes in this research area.

I believe that as I continue to develop my profile in this particular discipline, I will ultimately be the leading expert in this area of study and can change the way this disease is treated in the healthcare setting in Australia, starting with Queensland. I have started building my track record by publishing my findings in high impact factor pharmacology and urology journals. Additionally, last year I was invited to write a review on the pharmacology of the ureter. Further, I have also initiated an international collaboration with Professor Hikaru Hashitani from Nagoya City University and have first authored our first collaborative article, published in a top urology journal.

Ultimately, I believe that my research findings can change the way clinicians treat kidney stones, making recover easier, less painful and cost effective.

ROLE MODEL – Why do you think you are a good role model for women and girls aspiring to work in STEM? (max 500 words)
I grew up and completed high school in Malaysia. In my high school years, I always knew that I had a passion for biology and chemistry of the human body. In a country where career options are limited, my high school years were filled with people telling me the only career I could pursue is to ultimately become a medical doctor, which I was at that point certain I did not want to be. I am blessed with parents who allowed me to pursue a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Bond University on the Gold Coast to explore my career options in this field. During my studies, I was intrigued by all the different areas of biomedical sciences, but ultimately fell in love with the field of pharmacology. I approached my pharmacology lecturer, and undertook a couple of semesters doing voluntary research work in the lab which led to me pursuing a Masters of Science by Research degree. Following my confirmation of candidature, my Masters was upgraded to a PhD which I completed at the end of 2016 and following, started working as an Assistant Professor in May 2017.

I believe that I am a good role model for young women aspiring to work in STEM as I feel like I have experience in navigating through the difficulties and challenges in my path to achieve the success I have achieved at this stage of my career. While I did not have any idea there was a whole world of research growing up, I have landed where I am today as I never said no to any opportunities that have come my way. I have constantly built relationships with potential collaborators in the field, but also individuals and those I identify could be mentors in guiding me in this career path. I believe I also make a good mentor for younger girls and can guide them through this path.
 
ENGAGEMENT – Describe any STEM promotion or engagement activities that you have undertaken, including both scientific and non-scientific audiences, particularly with women and girls (maximum 500 words)

I am passionate about building a community of women who are supportive of each other, not only in their career development but also in other aspects of life. I am a member of the women in STEM group within the Faculty of Health Sciences & Medicine at Bond University and have been an advocate for providing women with equal career opportunities in the science field. I have written multiple articles on my experience to encourage women, particular younger girls in high school to pursue their interest in science education (e.g. Alliance of Girls’ School Magazine page 88 - https://www.agsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/IA-2019_WEB.pdf and Bond University Women in STEM blog - https://bond.edu.au/blog/women-stem-dr-iris-lim). I am also currently an active member of the Bond University Women’s Network which is an inclusive network of women and those who value and respect women. The goal of this network is to empower women to connect and make a difference, instilling a sense of compassion, care and community as respected and valued members of the Bond University community. We organise events that endeavour to support and assist women with their own development, as well as providing a forum to promote all causes for the betterment of women and families. 

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