Interview - Dr Hayley Newton

Posted by on 21 September 2016 | Comments

hayleypicHayley is a lab head and senior lecturer at the Doherty Institute, where she leads a research group focused on intracellular bacterial pathogens. Hayley completed her PhD at Monash University in 2007 before taking up an NHMRC-funded postdoctoral position at Yale University, where she studied the pathogenesis of Coxiella burnettii under Prof. Craig Roy. In 2013 she joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne, where she now balances both research and teaching roles. Hayley is also the chair of the ASM special interest group for Molecular Microbiology.

What’s your current area of research?
I’m really fascinated by bacteria that are able to invade human cells and take them over from the inside. My research laboratory is focused on understanding Coxiella burnetii and Legionella species. These intracellular bacterial pathogens do totally different things inside cells – Legionella commandeers vesicular trafficking pathways to establish a unique ER-like replicative vacuole and Coxiella, quite incredibly, thrives within the host lysosome. Despite these differences, both Coxiella and Legionella employ the same secretion system to mediate their intracellular success. We are interested in understanding how all this works, what proteins are involved and how they act to manipulate the human host cell. This research allows us to learn more about the pathogenesis of these microbes but also provides a novel biological tool to study the eukaryotic cell biology that occurs during infection.

What drew you to microbiology originally?
I studied a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Monash University and was really fascinated by all aspects of biology. When I started to learn how tiny microbes could impact our lives so significantly, in both positive and negative ways, I was hooked. After having the opportunity to conduct a couple of small lab projects during my undergrad I grew an appreciation for research and the incredible rewards to be had working at the forefront of discovery.

What does a standard day involve for you?
One of the things I really love about research is that every single day is different and the unexpected is always just around the corner. I lead a research team of nine people at the moment so I spend a lot of time in conversation with students about their latest results, their plans to attack a research question and troubleshooting the latest disaster experiment. My role also involves teaching to undergraduate microbiology students which is a lovely contrast, bringing my focus back to the fundamentals of microbiology.

How do you like to spend your time outside the lab?
Sleeping, eating, drinking gin, traveling, running, watching Netflix in my pajama’s …

What advice would you give to students/ECRs who are pursuing a career in research?
I’d like to think I’m way too young to be giving advice … but I guess the main thing is to follow your instincts and your passions. Find the questions that keep you up at night or push you out of bed in the morning and chase down the answers. Spend as much time as you can out of your comfort zone – networking and learning.