Australia’s first RNA Salon – meRNA at Monash University

G’day RNA mates!

RNA biology is still an emerging field in Australia and Monash University is becoming a strong hub with a number a research groups working on different aspects of RNA metabolism and regulation. This inspired us to initiate a monthly informal seminar series ‘meRNA club’ (stands for Monash Exploring RNA) in March 2016. Our aim was to foster local collaboration and technology sharing within Monash researchers, as well as provide junior investigators and students a forum to present their work in a friendly and supportive environment. We were quite overwhelmed by the level of interest in our first meeting with more than 60 RNA enthusiasts from students to PIs attending!

When the International RNA Society launched the RNA Salon initiative, there was no doubt we would apply. Thanks to the support by the RNA Society for three consecutive years, we have now been able to continue bringing together researchers working on various aspects on RNA biology and even provide some refreshments. The participants have shown great commitment to the meetings and the attendance has stayed at similar levels for almost three years. The participants come from very diverse backgrounds and represent different disciplines at Monash with affiliations at the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Biological Sciences, Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, Faculty of Engineering, School of Psychological Sciences, Department of Microbiology and Hudson Institute of Medical Research. The diversity of affiliations also reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the seminar series, the topics covering all aspects of RNA biology from RNA structures and biophysics to bioinformatics and small molecules to treat diseases arising from dysfunction of the RNA machinery.

Each year we host an end-of-the-year event with an external invited speaker to broaden our RNA network outside the campus borders. This year we were fortunate to have A/Prof Ohtan Wang (Kyoto University, Japan) speak about her amazing work on how RNA biology connects to neuronal plasticity.  In a remote country like Australia, this is critical in particular for students and post-docs who are at the start of their careers and are looking for new opportunities. Indeed, undergraduate students have found their future PhD supervisors and new collaborations have been initiated as a result of the meetings. We hope to make Melbourne the Aussie RNA capital by bringing researcher together to form a critical mass in RNA research.

As part of the CV building of junior researchers, each year we award prizes for the best student and post-doc talks. Last year’s winners were awarded with the RNA Society membership. We also continue developing the meRNA club program in response to our RNA community. This year’s end of the year event will include a PhD student symposium featuring presentation from each of the participating disciplines.

Want to know more about meRNA club or RNA research in Australia in general? No worries, just contact the convenors Dr Minni Anko (minni.anko@nullhudson.org.au) and Dr Peter Boag (peter.boag@nullmonash.edu).

Minni and Peter, on behalf of meRNA club

Figure 1: meRNA club, the first RNA Salon in Australia, has been running since 2016.

Figure 2: The first winners of the meRNA Award: Nicholas McKenzie and Dr Charlotte Nejad.