Dr Indra Choudhury is a recent PhD graduate, a former HDR representative and one of the Gold Coast’s 2020 Mayor’s Student Ambassadors 

He has gained expertise in spinal cord research, having completed his doctoral thesis through the Clem Jones Centre for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research (CJCNSCR). At the CJCNSCR, Professor James St John and Associate Professor Jenny Ekberg lead a team of scientists investigating the potential use of olfactory ensheathing cells as a cell-based therapy for spinal cord injury. 

We asked Indra about the path that led him to his research and his advice for researchers just starting out. 

What path led you to your research? 

Previously, I worked as a Junior Resident and Senior Medical Officer in general surgery and orthopaedics in India, and this experience led me to my research. This started with me getting a Master’s degree in Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation Technology through the University of Dundee (UK) followed by a Master’s degree in Medical Science and Technology through the Indian Institute of Technology. 

During my studies, I met likeminded medical professionals who had ventured into medical research. Following this I enrolled in and have now completed a PhD (2023) through Griffith University and the Clem Jones Centre.  

What sparked your passion for this topic? 

Spinal cord injury effects many people and treatment can help, but this condition still cannot be cured. This is what sparked my interest into working in this field. 

Can you tell us a bit about your recently completed PhD project? 

Olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) are a special type of cell found inside our nose and the rest of our olfactory nervous system. This system enables us to smell.   

These cells have a natural ability to promote regeneration and thus scientists are investigating how these unique cells could be used to repair spinal cord injury.   

My project investigates how OECs are able to ingest bacteria and cellular debris to clear the injury site and promote neural regeneration in spinal cord injury. My findings thus far show that when compared to other glial cells, OECs:  

  • can ingest a specific type of bacteria more consistently 
  • show less response to the genes involved in triggering the ingestion process. 

These findings provide further evidence that OECs offer unique possibilities for spinal cord repair, worthy of ongoing study.

Indra is looking through a microscope. He is wearing a lab coat and gloves.

Image courtesy of Dr Choudhury

What’s next for you? 

After my PhD thesis submission, I began applying for postdoctoral and academic positions in medicine. I am happy to announce I will be starting a lecturing position in medicine with Charles Sturt University’s School of Rural Medicine in 2023. 

‘Follow your passion and do so with the idea of translational impact […] Put yourself out there and take on any opportunities that come to you. Unless you try you will never succeed.’

As a recent PhD graduate, what advice would you give to researchers just starting out? 

Follow your passion and do so with the idea of translational impact. This means translating the outcomes of your research into results that directly benefit people. 

Put yourself out there and take on any opportunities that come to you. Unless you try you will never succeed. Taking on multiple roles can sometimes be difficult but in there you might find your next passion. Finally, enjoy your time at the University.

Are you thinking of pursuing a research degree?

If you’d like to find out more, check out the research study web page. 

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