Med student from Gympie wows with heart transplant theory
GYMPIE’S own Hollier O’Neill, has been announced as the winner of UQ’s prestigious Faculty of Medicine Three Minute Thesis competition and will take her entry through to the next round later this year.
Miss O’Neill, a PhD student, entered the competition with a video explaining her research into improving heart transplants and outcomes.
“Despite being a phenomenal, lifesaving procedure, almost one in six heart transplant recipients don’t survive the first year post-op,” she said.
“The three minute thesis is a competition where PhD students from across all areas aim to break their entire research project down to a three minute presentation.”
Miss O’Neill’s presentation, which can be viewed here, described how studying levels of molecules, called microRNA, could help improve the heart transplant process.
Miss O’Neill likened the microRNA to the oil in a race car, it keeps everything working, but sometimes it can spring a leak and stop helping.
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“My research essentially aims to measure the levels of microRNA in the oil before, during and after engine transplant, and correlate these measurements with the car outcome,” she said.
“If lower levels equal bad, then we can increase the MicroRNA beforehand and increase the chances of a successful transplant.”
The 3MT competition was started by UQ in 2008 is now held in over 900 institutions across 85 countries.
“There’s four major rounds; school hears, faculty finals, UQ finals and then Asia-Pacific.
“I’ve just received a place in the UQ finals by winning the Faculty of Medicine final,” Miss O’Neill said.
Miss O’Neill, said she has had some “truly amazing opportunities” come her way in recent years.
“I was raised in Gympie, proud St Pat’s graduate!”
After high school, Miss O’Neill moved from Gympie to Brisbane after being accepted into a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at UQ.
She also did a stint overseas at the University of Edinburgh during her undergraduate degree, and then did six months of research at the University of Oxford for her honours program.
Now, at only 23, Miss O’Neill has completed the undergraduate degree with honours, is in her second year of a MD-PhD program, working in the Critical Care Research Group, and next year will start a Doctor of Medicine degree while finishing off her PhD simultaneously.
She is on track to graduate with both degrees in 2024.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure what area of research or medicine I want to end up in,” she said.
“I love the heart, but trauma or paediatrics are also on the cards, but I do know that I want to be doing both the research and the clinical work..”
Miss O’Neill will be taking her entry to the next round of UQ’s 3MT finals on September 16.