TCRN Conference and Professional Development Grant Recipient: Felix Ma

19 May 2015
Photograph of Felix Ma

Felix Ma is a PhD student studying under the supervision of Dr Jason Wong at UNSW. Felix, a computer sciences expert, is seeking to improve proteomics data analysis through the development of new computational techniques.

“For the last two years, my research projects have been focusing on developing novel computational approaches to analyse mass spectrometry-based proteomics data with application to cancer and basic biomedical research,” he said.

Felix's focus is on virus classification and protein quantification. When combined with cancer proteomics, protein quantification is considered a potential goldmine for the discovery of novel biomarkers that indicate the presence of cancer in the human body; however, a lack of accuracy in existing protein quantification tools and technology is slowing down a field of research that could hold the key to a range of cancer mysteries.

“The accurate quantification of proteins remains a bottleneck,” he said.

“Existing tools have their drawbacks; the accuracy is not very good, so my job is to develop novel algorithms to make protein quantification more accurate.”

With such a mammoth challenge in front of him, Felix leapt at the opportunity to apply for a TCRN Conference and Professional Development Grant to attend the Lorne Proteomics Symposium in February of this year. The grant funded his travel, accommodation and registration costs to attend the three-day symposium in Victoria.

Felix says that the conference covered a range of applications related to proteomics analysis, helping him broaden his research horizons and sharpen his focus on his own research goals Of particular significance was the opportunity to meet the developer of MaxQuant, the current industry-standard protein quantification software program.

“MaxQuant is currently the most widely used protein quantification software, and it incorporates a lot of algorithms, and the inventor, the developer, Professor Juergen Cox, also attended this conference,”  he said.

“I had a chance to talk to him about his software, about his algorithms. It really benefitted me a lot.”

Now back in the lab at UNSW, Felix is pushing ahead with his own algorithms and is firmly focused on achieving something significant in this rapidly expanding field of research. He says that the absolute quantification of proteins is within the realms of possibility in the proteomics field.

“If we can realise the accurate and absolute quantification of proteins – because we can already do this for the others like mRNA or DNA, but with proteins it’s quite difficult – it will help to explain many things. I do believe that many other significant breakthroughs will appear in the future,” he said.

Grant snapshot:

Conference: Lorne Proteomics Symposium
Location: Lorne, VIC
Funding Round: Round 1, 2015