Oonagh Bodin - Interview with Dr Steve Petrovski, Environmental Microbial Genetics

Posted by on 6 August 2016 | Comments

Today i'm talking with Dr Steve Petrovski, a laboratory head at La Trobe University, Bundoora.

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Can you tell us a little about your PhD?

I did my PhD at La Trobe University under the supervision of Dr Vilma Stanisich. My PhD research was divided into two sections. The first part was investigating the evolution of two broad host range plasmid that belong to the incompatibility group P. These plasmids were isolated form two different geographical locations and encode resistance to different antibiotics. I was particularly interested in the antibiotic resistance determinants and the evolution of the plasmids. The second part of my PhD was investigating the mechanism of transposition of the Tn5053 family of transposable elements. These transposons are unusual as they have a preference for insertion in res sites.

What have you done since completing?

After completing my PhD I did a three year postdoc with Prof Robert Seviour at La Trobe University in Bendigo. I worked on isolating and characterising bacteriophages to attempt to control bacteria responsible for causing operational problems in wastewater treatment plants. After competing my postdoc I worked at the department of primary industries in their molecular genetics department for 12 months. During this 12 month period I learnt how to operate the next generation sequencing equipment. I then moved to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and got a permanent job their as a hospital scientist in molecular genetics. I was in a diagnostic lab and helped with the implementation of illumina technology in the diagnostic setting. However I always wanted to be an academic, so after three years at Peter Mac I applied for a lecturer position at La Trobe University and was successful. I am now a lecturer in microbial genetics at La Trobe University in the discipline of microbiology.

What is your current area of focus/research?

I have three main areas of research;

1. Investigating the molecular mechanisms of transposable elements that are associated with antimicrobial resistance.
2. Isolation and characterisation of bacteriophages to control the proliferation of filamentous bacteria in wastewater treatment plants.
3. Bacteriophage therapy. The isolation and use of bacteriophages in attempts to treat infections.

What drew you to this particular area of research?

I am interested in horizontal gene transfer and mobile genetic elements. Transposons, plasmids and bacteriophages are all mobile genetic elements and contribute to horizontal gene transfer. My research allows me to study these elements to help understand how the spread of antibiotic resistance has become such a huge problem and also ways in which we can try and control problematic bacteria.

To date, what would you say are some of your biggest achievements in microbiology?

My biggest achievements would be the completion of my PhD and publishing my findings.

What advice would you give any students or early career researches with a desire to become successful researchers?

Never give up!

I worked in a diagnostic lab for three years and would not give up on my research aspirations.

Thanks Steve! The Petrovski Lab tweets @PetrovskiLab and there lab news/happenings can be found on their laboratory webpage HERE