Donovan Garcia, mentee in the 2020-21 program in VIC (La Trobe University)

In 2015 I graduated with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in biotechnology engineering at UPAEP in Mexico. From semester 1 I started working on a research project that aimed to find new biopesticides using plant extracts. Initially I was helping students close to finishing their degree and learning new techniques, such as NMR, column chromatography and HPLC, toxicological assays. This project eventually became my thesis research, where I identified that a native Mexican plant had promising potential of further use to control the beet armyworm. Before graduating, I secured funding to study the Master of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics at La Trobe, starting in 2016. The second year of the course was full-time research, and I was offered a place in the Anderson laboratory to characterize how antimicrobial peptides from plants interact with the fungal cell wall. During this time, I learned how to perform antifungal assays, express protein, and to operate a confocal microscope. My master’s results were part of a collaborative publication shortly after.

After graduating in 2017, I was hired as a research assistant to clone antimicrobial protein genes into P. pastoris, allowing me to learn the techniques associated with this process. I decided to start my PhD in Biochemistry at the Anderson lab in 2018. My research focuses on particles released by fungal cells called extracellular vesicles (EVs) and understanding their role in pathogenesis of cotton and wheat. During my first year I optimized a new isolation protocol that has not been previously used for fungal EVs, allowing me to obtain EVs in a rapid and inexpensive way. The manuscript with these results is almost ready to be submitted. My team and I have also provided the first comprehensive proteomic studies of fungal EVs and presented a list of potential EV markers. These markers can allow the use of new techniques for EV detection and characterization. A better understanding of fungal EVs can contribute, for instance, to protecting crops in the field and evaluating the use of EVs as a new type of vaccines.

During my personal time, my favorite hobby is bicycle riding. I enjoy discovering new spots in the city and riding long trails. My favorite one is Gardiner’s trail which goes from South Yarra to Mount Waverly. I also enjoy camping and hiking; my partner’s and I favorite place in Victoria is Lake Elizabeth in Forrest. By participating in the Visualise Your Theisis competition in 2019, I found that I like creating videos from recording, to audio processing and video editing.

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