Tyler's PhD research with CTCR was investigating methylation signatures and prognostics in colorectal cancer using a statistics programme. Tyler went on to become a teaching fellow in the Genetics teaching programme at the University of Otago.
An interview with Tyler during his PhD research
Normal cells vs cancer cells
Tyler was initially attracted to this area of research as an undergraduate. He remembers an image in a lecture of two rhinos confronting each other: one representing normal cells and one, cancer cells. While normal cells and cancer cells have essentially the same genome (the same genetic toolbox) they are doing very different things and are fighting each other for space and nutrients.
Role of epigenetics
Epigenetics is one of the ways in which two cells with the same genome can achieve very different things. Tyler's research in epigenetics was looking at the influence environment can have on cells' development. By understanding and influencing the cell's environment, the goal is the earliest possible detection, and ideally prevention, of cancer.
Managing masses of information
Tyler's work involved managing a huge amount of information, learning to use a complex computer programme, keeping up with the maths and using the analysing data tool.
“You have to be critical in evaluating new information, working out what you think, not just accepting material at face value.”
He really enjoys the lab environment and working alongside his colleagues. He is keen on promoting and communicating science. His advice to aspiring scientists is: go with what interests you and you'll come to work happy.
Right track from Whangarei
Tyler grew up on a farm near Whangarei and had a wide range of interests as a child. He enjoyed science then biology at school, but also liked classics and art. He did his undergraduate study at Otago.
Outside the lab he enjoys painting, sketching, and photography, likes getting outdoors and enjoying nature. He's happy about sticking with this line of work and feels like he's on the right track.
Tyler's PhD research project:
The epigenetics of colorectal cancer