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Summer Research Scholarships 2021 Q&A | Leyla Meharg

21 September 2022
We talk to Leyla Meharg, recipient of a Charles Perkins Centre Summer Research Scholarship 2021, about the program
The Charles Perkins Centre Summer Research Scholarship program provides a rare opportunity for University of Sydney students to undertake paid multidisciplinary research with leading academics in our world-class facilities.

Open to all undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students, successful candidates develop research skills over eight weeks of research, gain experience, and contribute to finding real-world solutions to chronic diseases and their related conditions.

Leyla Meharg, Charles Perkins Centre Summer Research Scholar 2021

Leyla Meharg was enrolled in a Bachelor Science and Advanced Studies (and a Dalyell Scholar) in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Science when she saw an advertisement for the Charles Perkins Centre Summer Research Scholarships 2021 on the Charles Perkins Centre website.

With the support of her supervisors Dr Amanda Brandon in the Faculty of Medicine and Health, and Professor Stephen J Simpson, Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre, Leyla developed her topic: Establishing the role of fasting in the health benefits gained from calorie restriction.

We talk to Leyla about her experiences with the Charles Perkins Centre Summer Research Scholarship program from the application process and devising a topic, to what she’s doing now and her ongoing links with the Centre.

How did you go about devising your topic and preparing your application?

I reached out to a potential supervisor – Dr Amanda Brandon – who I had been in contact with during my studies. I asked Dr Brandon if she would support my application for the program. Together we discussed and tweaked my topic and prepared my application.

How did it feel to be accepted into the program?

I was very excited when I heard that I had been accepted into the program! After a semester online due to COVID-19, the prospect of being able to complete lab work and collaborate with other researchers was something that I was really looking forward to at the time of my acceptance into the program.

It was a very valuable experience working with such highly accomplished researchers on a new project. My supervisor and lab members supported me all throughout the entire research process and final research report and presentation output
Leyla Meharg, Summer Research Scholar 2021

Tell us a bit about the logistics of starting work eg when you commenced, how long your days were, how long was your project, were you based at the Charles Perkins Centre?

While I had planned to start in November, due to COVID-19 and the resulting constraints placed on lab work, I was unable to begin until early January 2022.

Once I started, I was in the lab every day until late February when classes started. I generally worked from 8:30am until 5pm daily as I had a lot of experimental work to get through in a short amount of time. I continued to work on my research in the first few weeks of semester around class time to finish.

What is the name of your project?

Establishing the role of fasting in the benefits gained from calorie restriction, which examines the physiological differences between fasting and calorie reduction on key proteins present in the liver.

Did it change/transform during the Summer Research Scholarship program?

Due to the constraints placed on lab work owing to COVID-19, I did not complete as many samples as I had intended to, however, the basis of my project remained the same.

Did it change/transform during the Summer Research Scholarship program

Due to the constraints placed on lab work owing to COVID-19, I did not complete as many samples as I had intended to, however, the basis of my project remained the same.

What was it like working with academic supervisors on a brand new research project?

It was a very valuable experience working with such highly accomplished researchers on a new project. My supervisor and lab members were extremely supportive, never failing to check in with me and make sure that I was comfortable and on track with my tasks. They supported me all throughout the entire research process and final research report and presentation output.

Were there any outcomes from your project eg a paper, a study, clinical trial, extended research project (or potential for any of these)?

The work that I completed during my research project will contribute to a larger study currently being undertaken by the Simpson Lab.

Will you continue with any part of the research project for the next phase of your academic/working career?

I am currently engaged in another research project investigating bovine embryo development at the Day and Morris Lab as part of my Honours research; however, my supervisor has expressed her willingness for me to continue to work on this project in the future depending on the next phase of my academic career.  

What next for you? Work, further study, travel?

Inspired by my CPC research experience, this year I have undertaken honours in physiology after being awarded a Sydney University Honours Scholarship. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience, and I am looking towards completing a PhD or postgraduate study in medicine next year. (Leyla was recently named the 2022 Jamieson Award Recipient by Graduate Women NSW).

Will you maintain any ties with the Charles Perkins Centre, professional, friends?

Certainly. I will maintain contact with my supervisor Dr Brandon, from the Charles Perkins Centre who I consider to be an excellent mentor.