Imagine you could put a tongue depressor on your tongue and in seconds you would know whether you were getting the flu or whether you have a stomach ulcer or whether you have cancer. Small molecules in our saliva, called biomarkers, can tell a detailed story about our health. But being able to quickly detect these molecules and read their story would be similar to searching for and trying to read the label of a tennis ball floating in Port Phillip Bay. Dr Doherty is developing materials that will have the ability to capture and accurately read these small biomarkers.
What is so unique about these materials is they can take up very little space so they can be used on devices such as a tongue depressor. They would act like a large carpet of Velcro that you place gently on the surface of Port Phillip Bay which the tennis ball of a biomarker can attach to. You can then rapidly grab the tennis ball from a sea and read its label. Dr Doherty’s research focuses on building these future devices by investigating the chemistry of the surface materials and being able to position and pattern these materials within the detector.
Cara is passionate about communicating her research across the broader community and has engaged with students from Brunswick Secondary and the John Monash Science School. Cara was also invited to participate in the Year 11 Nanotechnology Conference at John Monash. She was successfully nominated to attend the Theo Murphy High Flyers Think Tank in Adelaide in 2012.