Featured academics

Professor David James, Leonard P. Ullmann Chair of Metabolic Systems Biology

Professor David James

What is your area of expertise and research?
My research focuses on metabolic disease. I am fortunate because my team has a broad range of expertise. We look at individual molecules in cells and see how they behave and contribute to the cell’s health. We explore function in mice and humans and more recently we have begun to develop skills in systems biology, discovering thousands of changes in cells and tissues and using mathematics to understand what it all means. The beauty of this is that we combine all of this to discover new aspects of metabolic disease.

Working at the Charles Perkins Centre.
The Charles Perkins Centre provides a unique opportunity to pull together a complex and broad research team. Every researcher wants to do something really significant in their life and now more than ever before, in view of the spectacular technologies, the opportunities to do this are boundless. To take advantage of this you have to be in the right place at the right time. My vision is that CPC is just that place.

What is the real world impact of your research findings?
Throughout my career I was interested in understanding how the body maintains glucose homeostasis and what goes awry in metabolic disease. In the 80s I discovered the crucial protein that removes glucose from the blood. More recently my lab has generated a blueprint for how insulin works in fat cells and last year we provided the most comprehensive biochemical map of how exercise regulates metabolism in human muscle, a key step toward ascertaining the molecular events that trigger exercise benefits for health. Now we are in a really unique position to apply these skills to the biggest question of all – how do genes interact with the environment and how can we use this information for disease prevention?

Professor Adrian Bauman, Sesquicentenary Professor in Public Health, Director of Prevention Research Collaboration

Professor Adrian Bauman

What is your area of expertise and research?
My main area of research is in public health approaches to prevention, with particular expertise in work around physical activity and sedentary behaviour, with a focus on increasing population levels of physical activity. My research includes studies of physical activity internationally; epidemiological studies of physical activity and health; and interventions to increase physical activity levels. In recent years, I have focused on methods for research translation and the scale-up of effective programs to reach and influence many people.

Working at the Charles Perkins Centre.
The Charles Perkins Centre (CPC) approach builds on principles we have been using in public health for many years, working intersectorally, sharing new methods and research perspectives across groups, and building innovative transdisciplinary projects. In the Physical Activity and Exercise theme of CPC we are developing projects looking at prolonged sitting, projects focusing on the links between healthy activity and healthy sleep, and projects focusing on human-animal interactions (including promoting more walking amongst dogs and their owners).

What is the real world impact of your research findings?
Our research should directly influence policy and practice, and have measurable results in documenting changes to the physical activity environment, social norms around prevention, and measurable changes in physical activity participation levels. Similarly, in other areas of our work we expect our endeavours to result in reduced population smoking rates, reduced preconditions for obesity in society, and improved healthy lifestyles.

Dr Alistair M Senior, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Alistair M Senior

What is your area of expertise and research?
I am primarily interested in ecology and evolution. My research is focussed on trying to understand how environments shape diets and appetites, and how in turn these traits change over evolutionary time. I also have a keen interest in statistical and computational methods, particularly meta-analysis and agent-based models.

Working at the Charles Perkins Centre.
The CPC is a very interesting place to do research. On a daily basis, I interact with people that work at all levels of biology, from genes through to proteins, cells and organisms, all the way up to whole populations. There are very few institutes where such a diverse group of scientists with a broad range of skills are brought together with a single unifying interest.

What is the real world impact of your research findings?
We know surprisingly little about how diets and nutritional strategies change over evolutionary time. However, these traits fundamentally influence physiological adaptation and ultimately health. Perhaps our ability to understand these phenomena has been hampered by a lack of nutritional thinking. My research demonstrates that nutritional approaches can provide novel insights into the way that organisms adapt to their environments, and ultimately, I hope, give a new understanding of the evolutionary basis for diet, appetite and disease.

Dr Melkam Kebede, Research Fellow

Dr Melkam Kebede

What is your area of expertise and research?
My research concerns the failure to produce and secrete the hormone insulin in type 2 diabetes, specifically, the cells responsible called pancreatic beta-cells. It is well established that genetics contribute to an individual’s risk of type 2 diabetes, mainly through genes that affect beta-cell function. My research interests are related to the regulation of beta-cell function and its dysregulation in obesity-induced type 2 diabetes.

Working at the Charles Perkins Centre
I am excited to work at the Charles Perkins Centre and be part of the wonderful community of leaders who have unique expertise but a common overall goal. I am also excited to be based at such state-of-the-art laboratories and facilities, in particular the open layout design of the building that promotes and encourages interaction and collaboration.

What is the real world impact of your research finding?
Several mutations in the Scors1 gene have been associated with human type 2 diabetes and diabetes complications. I aim to characterise the metabolic consequence of one of these mutations on beta-cell function. Once completed, the study will provide insight into the mechanisms by which beta-cells maintain their function, and how a defect in this maintenance can be an underlying cause of type 2 diabetes. This study will also provide a roadmap for characterising the different human mutations that are associated with the disease.