Entry for:2018 Queensland Women in STEM Prize
1. Please provide a short summary of your research, project or technology.
I use equations to understand malaria. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people die from malaria. Malaria is a parasite which is passed around through mosquito bites. During a malaria infection, the parasite attaches itself to the red blood cells of the bite victim. My research aims to understand the adhesion between a malaria parasite and red blood cell. I use laser tweezers (yes, tweezers made of a laser) to rip the parasite off a red blood cell. At the microscopic scale, there are physics equations which say that the parasite will rip off differently for each attempt, which opens the possibility of finding an ‘adhesion signature’. If such an ‘adhesion signature’ exists and can be found, we can develop new disease diagnostic tools. My fundamental research has the potential to link researchers, and create new jobs, across the biological, chemical, and physical sciences and engineering.