Researcher Interview: Dr Elisha Hamilton

What does your role as Laboratory Manager involve?

I am directly responsible for performing many of the experiments that are conducted within Professor Rasmussen’s laboratory, as well as providing a supervisory role to both students and research assistants within the lab. Basically, my role as Laboratory Manager requires that I balance the scientific needs of the staff with the business needs of the lab. My duties range from maintaining laboratory equipment, purchasing supplies, data management, budgeting and organising training. In addition, I perform many academic administrative duties including; work health and safety representation, preparation and submission of applications to funding bodies, preparation and submission of scientific manuscripts for publication as well as preparation and submission of applications for ethics approval.

What inspired you to follow a cardiac research career?

I can’t say that there was a particular moment or incident which led to my pursuit of a research career in cardiology specifically. I studied a Bachelor of Science during my undergraduate degree, majoring in Anatomy and Physiology, and developed a strong affection for discovery within the physiological field. I was drawn to Professor Rasmussen’s laboratory because of the unique and highly accurate way in which physiological recordings were made of heart cells within his group. When performed correctly, this technique enables us to uncover cellular mechanisms with a great deal of speed and accuracy.

Tell us about one of the research projects happening in the lab at the moment?

Yeon Jae Kim, a PhD student, is working on a project looking at compounds known as “digitalis glycosides” which have been found circulating in blood without ever having been ingested and, while they usually are given for therapeutic purposes, they are thought to trigger serious diseases when they occur spontaneously. Surprisingly, at the low concentrations they occur spontaneously, they are reported to stimulate or inhibit their molecular target, making it difficult to know how to counter their adverse effect. We aim to determine what effect they actually have on their target with the intention of potentially using this as a treatment for heart failure.

What motivates your work?

Scientific research often gets very repetitive and monotonous, so it is very important to find something that motivates you on a daily basis, as long-term results and outcomes can often seem out of sight. I really enjoy the technique that we use to study the heart cells (it is somewhat analogous to fishing) and even after 15 years, it is still quite thrilling when you “land” a cell and can draw a conclusion about the mechanisms that are occurring inside the heart cell.