Combining clinical and research excellence

Meet: Grace Sun, PhD

Grace started her PhD at the Melbourne Dental School (University of Melbourne) after completing her Bachelor of Dental Surgery and Masters at Shandong University back home in China. She is the recipient of numerous scholarships including the 2018 Rowden White Scholarship.

Grace Sun (PhD, Melbourne Dental School)

Grace's PhD experience at the Melbourne Dental School

"I am mostly interested in doing research work with vigour and creativity in dentistry. I believed the Melbourne Dental School would be an ideal place for me to pursue a PhD. In addition to the Dental School's research program matching my oral clinical background, I was impressed with the rich research culture reflected in the interdisciplinary collaborations the School has with other departments and research institutes. I believed trianing here would contribute to my academic goal of conducting in-depth research."

The Melbourne Dental School provided Grace with the opportunity to attend major conferences during her PhD study.

"It is a fantastic educational opportunity for me. Conferences not only broaden my knowledge for my PhD project, but also help me get valuable feedback and suggestions to improve the quality of my future research."

Through her PhD at the Melbourne Dental School, Grace has developed skills that are vital to her future research and career outcomes.

"I have learned how to define a problem and find possible reasons and solutions. Effective work habits have also been formed – I can work efficiently under pressure and finish within time limits. This will help me a lot for my future study and work!"

Grace's research interests

"I am really interested in cancer vaccine studies. oral cancer represents nearly 5 per cent of all diagnosed malignant lesions and is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, affecting approximately 500,000 patients in the world. Despite advances in diagnosis, operative techniques, and chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the five-year survival rate throughout the world has not improved in the past 30 years. Therefore, there is a great need for novel therapeutic strategies. Therapeutic cancer vaccine has been considered as a promising strategy to improve outcomes by eliciting a potent adaptive immune response, giving rise to the eradication of cancer cells."

Grace's PhD project

Project title: "The development of a biodegradable nanoparticle vaccine delivery system"

Supervisors: Professor Neil O'Brien-Simpson, Professor Eric Reynolds, Professor Michael McCullough, Dr James Holden and Dr Jason Lenzo

"My PhD project is to develop a cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) vaccine against oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). This project will leverage key developments form several disciplines (i.e. nanotechnology and immunology) to bring a number of significant scientific outcomes."

"Firstly, it will establish the efficacy of incorporation of molecular adjuvants in nanoparticles (NPs) to stimulate an immune response via vaccination. Such knowledge will provide a significant impact on guiding the next generation of safe and effective vaccine design. Additionally, the systematic and commercially scalable approach and the use of calcium phosphate as the core NP material (a regulatory approved biomaterial) allows for this technology to have immediate applicability in a wide number of fields."

Grace's plan after her PhD

"I have a definite career goal to be a highly qualified dentist. I look forward to expanding my understanding of conservative dentistry as well as learn advanced research methods."

"After completing my PhD at the Melbourne Dental School, I wish to be a dentist who can do clinical work and research at the same time. I want to investigate fundamental dental problems that have nice application prospects."

Grace's PhD advice

"Always stay passionate about learning something new. It is not easy to get a PhD degree, so never give up and try your best to finish it. Make a plan for every week and stick to it. Find a friend to help you research – you could share your study experience and make progress together. Most importantly, always try to have a healthy balanced life!"

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