Having a brother with a rare, life-limiting disease was the inspiration for Gordon Park resident Zoe Macourt to dedicate herself to expanding biomedical knowledge.

Ms Macourt graduated with a University of Queensland Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Honours) degree on July 21 and gave the valedictory speech to students at the 2pm ceremony at the UQ Centre, St Lucia.   

Her family was be there to celebrate her graduation, including  her younger brother Max, 19, who is an elite athlete and a national boccia champion (boccia is a precision ball sport, similar to the Italian bowls game, bocce) played by athletes with severe physical disabilities.

“Max has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which is a hereditary condition and a severe type of muscular dystrophy which affects one in 3600 boys,” she said.  

“Duchenne muscular dystrophy affects the protein in the body and causes muscle contraction. 

“It severely damages muscles and most people with this condition require a wheelchair by the age of 12, and have a shorter life span.

“Since I was young, I’ve been very interested in learning as much as I can about my brother’s condition with a long-term aim to help other people in future.”

Ms Macourt said she had been fortunate to undertake her Honours study in the Muscle Research Lab of ARC Future Fellow Dr Brad Launikonis in the School of Biomedical Sciences

“Brad research specialises in muscle physiology, so I was lucky to study metabolic fatigue in healthy muscles using cane toads as a model,” she said.

“The study involved developing a protocol to find different calcium channeling in muscles as a way to measure changes to calcium– no one had measured that before.”

A former Brisbane Girls Grammar School student, she enrolled at UQ where she achieved a high undergraduate grade point average of 6.67 while helping her family care for Max.

Along the way she has earned Dean’s commendations, and a School of Biomedical Sciences’ honours bursary in the Faculty of Science.

She has volunteered at science events and is also a graduate of the Faculty of Science’s Advanced Study Program in Science (ASPinS) which has helped more than 250 students to pursue their passion for research.

Ms Macourt said she was proud of her TAFE media student brother and hopes to cheer him on as a squad member of the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.

“I’m not too sure what my future holds but I’d like to study for a masters in genetic counselling or do a PhD in physiology,” she said.

Media: Zoe Macourt, s4319164@student.uq.edu.au, +61 0401 847 735

 

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