Winner of the Henry Kelsey Scholarship

22 March 2021

The winner of the Henry Kelsey Scholarship, 26-year-old Alex Chan, pictured, of Auckland University, says he was quite shocked but pleased when he got the news that the $10,000 scholarship was his. 

The scholarship provides funds for individuals to undertake research towards a PhD studying muscular function, including the causes and treatment of muscular dysfunction.

MDANZ collaborates with Universities New Zealand, which administers the scholarship, and our National Executive Chairperson, Tristram Ingham, chairs the committee. 

Alex, who is in the third year of his PhD, explains his research is in a new area looking into how mitochondria regulates metabolism and stress.

He  is investigating the effect of a small peptide naturally produced by the mitochondria called MOTS-c on muscle function.

One of his referees says this is a new and exciting field of research in that MOTS-c appears to be largely produced by the muscle, and early evidence suggests it can improve the metabolic function of muscle, and perturbed mitochondria and metabolic processes are common in many muscle pathologies.

The outcomes from Alex’s research project has potential to be translated into clinical models of muscular dysfunction.

Alex says that by understanding the mechanisms of MOTS-c, it can provide a better understanding on how MOTS-c can improve skeletal muscle function when exposed to metabolic stress.

Alex was born in Hong Kong and his family came to New Zealand when he was just two and he grew up in Auckland’s Botany Downs.

Unsure what to do when he first went to university he initially went into Biomedical Sciences, but later developed an interest in nutrition. 

His Master’s degree was investigating different dairy protein formulations on skeletal muscle protein synthesis and his PhD is in muscle and mitochondrial physiology.

As to the future, he is unsure as yet, but is open to the possibility of a career in academia, teaching or industry work. But his current goal is to finish his research and PhD.

* This story was originally published in the Autumn 2021 edition of In Touch magazine. 

For more information please contact: 
Melanie Louden 
Communications and Marketing Advisor 
Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand 
027 509 8774 
[email protected]