Dominic was inspired to embark on a career in biomedical research when he joined the then newly established laboratory of Marie Bogoyevitch at the Biochemistry Department in the University of Western Australia. During these formative years, Dominic utlilised techniques in molecular biology and protein chemistry to study fundamental intracellular signal transduction mechanisms, principally the JAK/STAT pathway, and sought to determine their function in heart disease. This was a productive period as Dominic published numerous papers in Journal of Biological Chemistry, Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology and Cardiovascular Research. A notable discovery was the specific activation of distinct STAT3 spliceforms during the late stages of human heart failure.
By the time Dominic was awarded his PhD in 2004, his overseas postdoctoral training was well under way at the world-renowned Biopolis research hub in Singapore under the guidance of Xinmin Cao. Here Dominic continued to work on the STAT3 transcription factor but gained new skills in cellular biology, live-cell imaging and small animal models. This was a particularly exciting time as Dominic contributed to the lab’s landmark discovery of a novel interaction between STAT3 and a mitochondrial inner membrane complex I protein, GRIM19. Continuing in this line of investigation, Dominic uncovered new STAT3 functions in the cytoplasm, including control of the microtubule cytoskeletal network and cellular migration through binding of a tubulin-sequestering protein, stathmin (published in Journal of Cell Biology). Thus, the old paradigm of STAT3 as a latent transciption factor in the cytoplasm was turned on its head.
In 2006, the award of an NHMRC Peter Doherty Training Fellowship allowed Dominic to return to Australia to apply his postdoctoral training to a long-standing interest in cardiac STAT3 function. His transition back to Oz was a successful one, as Dominic quickly secured independent research funding and was awarded numerous prizes, including a Heart Foundation award presented by the Governor of Western Australia and Biochemical Journal’s Young Investigator Award. In 2007, Dominic moved to the University of Melbourne’s Biochemistry Department where, under the mentorship of senior academic colleagues, he established a small but productive research team to study cell signalling mechanisms that control the cytoskeleton. In 2011, Dominic secured a CR Roper Fellowship, which will allow him to expand his research program to study stress-activated c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs). With the aid of collaborators nationally and overseas, Dominic’s team seeks to determine how JNK signalling to the cytoskeleton regulates cell division, migration and survival decisions.