PhD student Abolfazl Dashtbani Roozbehani on tackling the global antimicrobial drug resistance crisis


Abolfazl, whose PhD is being supervised by Professor Melissa Brown, in the College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University, recently submitted his PhD thesis.

When asked why he chose to study PhD, Abolfazl said: “After I completed my Master of Research degree at the National University of Singapore in 2016, I was looking for an opportunity to further my studies towards PhD. I was very fortunate to get to know about Professor Melissa Brown’s research on antimicrobial drug resistance and she agreed to be my principal supervisor for my PhD journey.”

Abolfazl was awarded an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship and relocated to Australia mid-2017. This scholarship is highly sought after as there is only a maximum of 10 awarded by Flinders University annually. His PhD research focuses on investigating the functional aspects of a major protein involved in mediating antimicrobial resistance in a superbug bacteria (Staphylococcus). This superbug causes drug-resistant infections and is one of the most serious threats in healthcare today in Australia and across the world. His research findings will serve as a basis for developing strategies for the inhibition of a principal mechanism of antimicrobial resistance in this superbug.

During his PhD, Abolfazl was awarded an overseas conference travel grant from Flinders University and financial assistance from the Chairman’s fund to attend and present his PhD research at the Gordon Research Conference (Italy 2019). These conferences are small highly specialised prestigious meetings attended by the leading scientists in the field and are selective of their attendees; attendance is limited to 150 attendees. Additionally, he was selected to present his work orally at the annual Australian Society for Microbiology conference (2019) and as posters on multiple occasions. He was chosen to participate in the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) program, gaining experience in research and work environment in MedTech industry in Australia (only five are chosen annually from Flinders University). He was awarded a student scholarship from AbbVie Biopharmaceutical Company and participated in the Australia Biotech Invest & Partnering 2020 Conference where he developed multiple industry connections. He is active in professional societies being a member of British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC), Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP), Australia’s Biotechnology industry (AusBiotech) and the Australian Society of Microbiology (ASM).

Abolfazl is pursuing his goal to bring innovations from research to practice in order to tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance. He intends to collaborate with scientists and industry partners for a real-life impact of his research work.

When asked about some advice he would pass on to current or prospective PhD students, Abolfazl says: “Find a great and supportive supervisor who is an expert in your area of research and who can bring out the best in you. Be proactive and self-disciplined. Persevere, work hard and wise. Always make your plan and tick off the tasks as you complete them. This inspires you to keep moving forward. Remember to have regular (weekly) meetings with your supervisor and submit as quickly as you can. Enjoy your PhD journey.”

The PhD journey is challenging but a self-rewarding experience on both academic and personal levels. I gained increased confidence in finding the gaps in existing knowledge and developing ways to investigate them. It certainly changed the way I think and how I read and research. It helped me build resilience to challenges I face during research.

“A difficult and challenging time in my PhD journey was when I hurled into COVID-19-related complexities and restrictions. The going got tough and I had to reposition methodologies different to what was originally planned to be undertaken. However, this gave me the opportunity to learn new skills while working hard to finish off my thesis before reaching my submission deadline.”

Abolfazl adds that his favourite motivational quote is “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. Defeat is nothing but education; it is the first step towards something better.”—Alexander Graham Bell.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed my four years of PhD research at Flinders University. I would like to thank my supervisor Professor Melissa Brown for her fabulous support and supervision. I am also very grateful to the Office of Graduate Research at Flinders University for excellent support and encouragement they provide for the higher degree by research students.

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