2013 Victorian Young Tall Poppy of the Year
Dr Shalin Naik
Research Field: Immunology, Haematology
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Our immune system is an armada of many different white blood cells that protect us against germs and other harmful agents. Dedicated stem and ‘progenitor’ cells in our bone marrow create these white cells every day, and scientists once thought that these blood progenitors were all equal. Dr Naik’s group have just made an exciting that shows even these stem cells are all different and have already decided which blood cells to make.
Why do we care? Well, blood cell growth is a real ‘Goldilocks’ problem. Too many of one type, and you might get what is called leukaemia and lymphoma. Too few and you might get an immune deficiency that makes it difficult to get better after infection. Through Dr Naik’s research, the WEHI Immunology Division now has some very exciting technologies to help find the Goldilocks ‘control centre’ for each white cell. With this knowledge it is hoped to one day help people who desperately need a few more or a few less of these white blood cells!
Shalin regularly writes website reviews for the New Scientist magazine. He is a demonstrator for high school students and teachers at the Gene Technology Access Centre and the Melbourne Museum. He also organised the Melbourne leg of Triple J’s Sleek Geek Tour (with Dr Karl and Adam Spencer). Shalin’s current focus is in reversing the misinformation being pedaled about vaccination, the tragic consequences of which are being felt worldwide through vaccine preventable deaths. He believes Science communication is something not only to be passionate about, but it is every scientist’s responsibility.