Junna Hayashi knows exactly what she wants to do: discover mechanisms and treatments for neurodegenerative disorders.
Junna Hayashi first came to the ANU Research School of Chemistry at the end of 2015 as a Summer Scholar. Continuing research related to her honours project at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, she went straight to work studying proteins implicated in Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders – including some forms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Although Junna considered medical school, her real love was medical research. She began her PhD at the School in Autumn 2016 at age 20, and was awarded the Rod Rickards Scholarship in her second year.
In one project, Junna studies how “chaperone” proteins prevent neurodegenerative proteins from gaining their toxic structure.
“We think we’re close to finding the mechanism for how a specific chaperone prevents proteins from aggregating," she says.
"This is really fascinating to us because, as you know, a lot of the ageing population are getting these neurodegenerative disorders.”
Junna calls the scholarship “a blessing,” pointing out that the workload of pursuing a three-and-a-half year PhD can be exhausting. She uses part of her limited time volunteering with Orange Sky Laundry, accompanying its van every fortnight to do laundry for homeless residents of Canberra.
“The School is just a really good place. My first adviser was a role model for the kind of researcher I want to be.”
Find out more about the Rod Rickards Scholarship and how you can help support PhD students of organic and biological chemistry at the Research School of Chemistry here.