THE 2018 EPPENDORF EDMAN AWARD: RAJESH GHAI
Institute for Molecular Bioscience
University of Queensland
The idea of being able to visualise the intricate functioning of biomolecules that make up a functioning human body has excited me since my undergraduate years. To pursue my interest, I moved to Australia on a highly competitive University of Queensland international postgraduate scholarship and enrolled in the Masters program in Molecular Biology, where I was recognised with the Dean’s commendation for high achievement for my performance in this program. Based on my strong academic and research performance, I was awarded a highly competitive University of Queensland (International) Research Scholarship in 2009 to undertake PhD studies at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), UQ. Here, I worked with Associate Professor Brett Collins to study the role of sorting nexin (SNX) proteins in cellular trafficking pathways at atomic resolution using a combination of structural biology and cell biology methods. This resulted in eleven publications in esteemed journals, and the receipt of a prestigious Dean’s Award for Research Higher Degree Excellence, demonstrating the impact and success of my doctoral work.
My pursuit to study intracellular trafficking continued with the invitation from Professor Rob Yang to join his group as a postdoctoral scientist at (University of NSW). My research in Professor Yang’s laboratory was highly multidisciplinary and focused on exploring the molecular basis of inter-organelle lipid trafficking by oxysterol binding proteins. This led to a seminal first author article in Nature Communications. My work in defining how phospholipids are transported to and from the plasma membrane challenged accepted models of lipid transport, and attracted commendations from leaders in the field.
In 2016, I was awarded one of the inaugural NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellowships to move to the IMB, and was simultaneously awarded an ARC DECRA, which I had to decline. At the IMB, I initiated an independent research program on neuronal membrane trafficking structural biology. In a collaborative study, I identified a new endosomal trafficking machinery called Retriever and this work has provided new advances in our understanding of different cellular trafficking pathways and was published in the top cell biology journal Nature Cell Biology.