Our Research Focus

The University of Canberra has a collaborative, innovative and dynamic research culture, with a focus on producing high-quality and high-impact work that makes an early and significant difference to the world around us.

We aim to deliver breakthroughs and be globally competitive in the main areas of:

Research Foundation Plan

The University of Canberra aims to be recognised as one of Australia's most innovative tertiary institutions, focussing our research on some of the big challenges facing our society and the world.

Learn more about our plan

Considering a degree by research?

Become a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidate and make a world of difference.

Commencing a research degree

Research Insights

Loading video...
1
00:00:06,930 --> 00:00:09,650
I’m Janine Deakin, an Associated Professor in
genetics

2
00:00:09,650 --> 00:00:11,390
and an ARC future fellow within

3
00:00:11,390 --> 00:00:14,610
the Institute of Applied Ecology at the
University of Canberra

4
00:00:14,610 --> 00:00:18,650
My research area is in comparative genomics.

5
00:00:18,650 --> 00:00:21,970
This literally means comparing the
genomes of one species

6
00:00:21,970 --> 00:00:25,330
to another to gain an understanding of how 
the genome has changed

7
00:00:25,330 --> 00:00:29,110
over the time. I'm particularly interested

8
00:00:29,110 --> 00:00:33,380
in the genomes of the unique fauna 
of Australia, such as marsupials like the Tammar 

9
00:00:33,380 --> 00:00:34,060
wallaby

10
00:00:34,060 --> 00:00:37,540
and Tasmanian devil and monotremes
like the platypus.

11
00:00:37,540 --> 00:00:41,190
I've recently started work on an Australian
reptile

12
00:00:41,190 --> 00:00:46,190
the central bearded dragon. My current
research topic is on

13
00:00:46,190 --> 00:00:50,100
the iconic Tasmanian devil and the
devastating devil facial tumour disease

14
00:00:50,100 --> 00:00:51,949
that is currently threatening

15
00:00:51,949 --> 00:00:56,309
the survival of the devil population.
This disease

16
00:00:56,309 --> 00:01:01,530
is unusual in that it is a contagious
cancer. It is not spread by a virus

17
00:01:01,530 --> 00:01:04,830
but it appears that the tumour itself is the
infectious agent,

18
00:01:04,830 --> 00:01:08,660
being spread by healthy Devils biting
into the tumours of

19
00:01:08,660 --> 00:01:12,580
infected Devils. Biting each

20
00:01:12,580 --> 00:01:16,930
other around the face is a social
behavior they displayed during mating

21
00:01:16,930 --> 00:01:20,170
and communal feeding. The tunour originated in

22
00:01:20,170 --> 00:01:24,430
an animal over 17 years ago and
has outlived its original host

23
00:01:24,430 --> 00:01:29,799
and has since passed through thousands of devils. 
My research

24
00:01:29,799 --> 00:01:33,869
on this disease has involved
comparing the normal devil genome 

25
00:01:33,869 --> 00:01:37,950
to that of the tumour to see how the  
tumour was initially formed

26
00:01:37,950 --> 00:01:41,610
and how it is evolving as it 
spreads throughout the population.

27
00:01:41,610 --> 00:01:45,250
By determining the location of genes 

28
00:01:45,250 --> 00:01:49,680
a normal devil and tumour chromosomes, we 
found that the devil facial tumour initially

29
00:01:49,680 --> 00:01:50,280
developed

30
00:01:50,280 --> 00:01:54,270
in a female devil. We came to this conclusion 

31
00:01:54,270 --> 00:01:58,170
because there was no why Y chromosome 
genetic material found in the tumour

32
00:01:58,170 --> 00:02:01,560
and most of the X chromosome genes 
were found in two copies,

33
00:02:01,560 --> 00:02:07,659
as we would expect for females. Our data 
also provided some insight into how the tumour

34
00:02:07,659 --> 00:02:09,149
was initially formed.

35
00:02:09,149 --> 00:02:12,740
It appears that two chromosomes 
were shattered

36
00:02:12,740 --> 00:02:18,130
and re-joined in a completely different order. 
What would have caused this event

37
00:02:18,130 --> 00:02:22,019
is unknown but knowing which regions 
of the genome are highly rearranged 

38
00:02:22,019 --> 00:02:25,140
gives us a starting point for looking 
for candidate genes involved in 

39
00:02:25,140 --> 00:02:26,310
driving this tumour. 

40
00:02:26,310 --> 00:02:31,280
We have also observed that since 
this initial shattering

41
00:02:31,280 --> 00:02:34,629
and re-joining event, the tumour 
has become relatively stable. 

42
00:02:34,629 --> 00:02:38,400
This is quite remarkable given that 
the tumour has been dividing

43
00:02:38,400 --> 00:02:44,290
for over 17 years. By continuing to 
observe how the tumour is evolving, 

44
00:02:44,290 --> 00:02:47,819
we will be able to determine if the 
tumour is changing to overcome 

45
00:02:47,819 --> 00:02:51,430
any possible resistance it meets within 
the devil population,

46
00:02:51,430 --> 00:02:54,970
which is a situation we hope 
is not happening. 

47
00:02:54,970 --> 00:03:00,050
Alternatively, the tumour may be 
evolving to become less virulent 

48
00:03:00,050 --> 00:03:04,019
to devils, allowing devils to 
ultimately survive 

49
00:03:04,019 --> 00:03:06,069
and overcome a tumour infection. 

Saving Tassie Devils from Extinction

Uncovering the key to the facial tumour that threatens the survival of the Tasmanian Devil with Dr Janine Deakin.

More insights


News

  1. International honour for UC education expert

    Philip Roberts has been recognised by the prestigious American Education Research Association for his study into education’s city-country divide

    More on International honour for UC education expert
  2. Dr Kumudu Munasinghe and research assistants Adrian Garrido Sanchis and Lorenzo Bertolelli inspect the IoT unit which will be used to eavesdrop on local frogs. Photo: Kim Pham

    Eavesdropping on frogs before they croak

    Volunteers monitoring frogs around Canberra will be required to spend less time in the field thanks to University of Canberra technology

    More on Eavesdropping on frogs before they croak
  3. Indigenous educator receives courage award

    Indigenous educator receives courage award

    University of Canberra Professor of Education Chris Sarra received the Anthony Mundine Award for Courage at the 2017 National Indigenous Human Rights Awards

    More on Indigenous educator receives courage award
  4. UC Public Hospital design focuses on Canberra

    UC Public Hospital design focuses on Canberra

    Staff and students at the University of Canberra are a step closer to having access to world-class teaching and research facilities after the UC Public Hospital reached another construction milestone

    More on UC Public Hospital design focuses on Canberra

Read more


Watch this space.

See all UC events >