Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to getting to where you are today as a researcher here at MCRI.

I was born in a small town in Serbia in 1985, which was then part of Yugoslavia. I spent most of my childhood around farm animals, collecting rocks and insects. At 11 years old, I moved to Melbourne with my family. I attended Monash University where I studied Genetics and Microbiology and in a third year lecture, found the concept of epigenetics fascinating.

I did my Honours studying DNA methylation (an epigenetic mark) in cryopreserved sperm. I then found a job opening in the new epigenetics lab of Richard Saffery and Jeff Craig at MCRI. Between 2007 and 2013 I worked on DNA methylation of placentation, as a Research Assistant, then a PhD student, and finally as a Research Officer.

In 2014 I moved to the Netherlands to work in a renowned epigenomics lab led by Prof Henk Stunnenberg. I returned to MCRI in 2018 as a Team Leader in Prof Saffery's lab with a new skillset and plans to apply it to a range of early life cohorts available on campus.

How did you become involved in the study and what did your involvement entail from a day-to-day and project perspective?

Professor Jane Halliday spent several years recruiting adults conceived by assisted reproduction and had a range of clinical and phenotypical data as well as biological samples. Together with Professor Saffery's lab, DNA was extracted from these adults and their matched neonatal blood spots from several decades earlier.

My role was to analyse this dataset using bioinformatics techniques, to interpret the results and write the manuscript. A challenge in working with large datasets (in this case 440 individuals and 850,000 datapoints) is that these files can't be opened on a desktop computer. Instead, we use servers – and MCRI has a really nice user-friendly one with excellent support from the IT team. I spent about six months analysing the data using specialised software to identify the parts of the genome where DNA methylation is associated with assisted reproduction.

By the time the paper was accepted we had more questions than answers – so we have since written two funding applications to continue this project.

What does this research and being part of it mean to you?

The media attention of this research has been quite unprecedented for me – the MCRI communications team estimated that an audience of ~1.7 million people were reached by the different newspaper and radio platforms! This involved talking to journalists and completing answers for websites like The Conversation. It was also my first project with Jane, who was really fun to work with and very supportive

Outside of research, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I met my wife at MCRI in 2010, and since then we've worked in the same lab in the Netherlands for three years and our son was born there too. Outside of work – which I have to remind myself is not a hobby – I like to travel. For that reason,doing a postdoc in Europe was amazing. You get 40 days annual leave and cheap flights to hundreds of cities. Day-to-day life mainly involves keeping our toddler entertained, but with anotherboy on the way I hope in a few years they can entertain each other and my wife and I can relax.