Making Impactful Change in Bone Health

Friday 21 August 2020

This week is National Science Week which is an annual celebration of science and technology in Australia, this year more than ever before, it is important to recognise the work done by scientists, medical researchers and health professionals globally.

Today we meet Lena Batoon a PhD Candidate with Mater Research, Young Science Ambassador and Young Investigator Award recipient who has a special interest in bone health and research due to a very close personal connection with bone cancer.

Lena is not only passionate about her own research but encouraging other younger generations to pursue careers in STEM as a Wonder of Science Ambassador where she holds education sessions with school students.

“I have been a Science Ambassador for more than a year now and I have visited several metro and rural schools across Queensland. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic our visits now occur virtually where we interact with students through video conferencing sessions. Despite the current challenges, the students are still really engaged and find it so much fun,” Lena said.

“Some of my students this term are working on a project where they have to prove Earth is the best planet to live on. It is very encouraging to see them come up with all sorts of experiments to demonstrate that our planet has the perfect atmosphere, temperature and elements to sustain life. Like real scientists, they will also be presenting their research at a state-wide conference later in the year.”

In addition to mentoring students Lena is doing her own research under Professor Allision Pettit into developing a drug to help healthy and osteoporotic bones heal from fractures.

“Before we can develop a drug, we first need to understand the process of fracture healing. During my PhD, I developed several models which we’ve used to better understand how healthy and osteoporotic fractures heal. Now, we are using these models to test promising biologics and I’ll be sharing more about this exciting work at an international conference next month,” Lena said.

Lena has successfully submitted three abstracts to the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research, the largest research association in her specialty.

“One abstract has been selected for an oral presentation and one for a plenary poster presentation. This is an exciting outcome given we usually only have about 7 per cent success rate of being selected,” Lena said.

“I will also be receiving a Young Investigator Award at this conference in the form of plaque and honorarium. Last month, I was the recipient of another Young Investigator Award which allowed me to attend the 3-day European Calcified Tissue Society Digital Masterclass where I received training and mentorship from leading experts in my field.”

Since her early school years Lena has always had an interest in science and medicine originally wanting to be a doctor, she would still like to pursue clinical medicine while staying in research.

“This is a tough and highly competitive field of work, you need to be really passionate, committed and driven about what you do but it also allows you the opportunity to make real impactful change,” Lena said.

Mater Research Bones and Immunology Group Leader Professor Allison Pettit said Lena was an extremely talented and dedicated researcher. 

“Lena is a fantastic contributor to Mater Research, TRI and UQ postgraduate research community, she is a wonderful choice to profile for National Science Week,” Allison said.