Collaborative Research Network (CRN)

Dr Francine Marques

Research Fellow

Federation University Australia

Matters of the heart are very important to Dr Francine Marques, and not just in her work researching cardiovascular diseases. A few years back, she came to Australia from her native Brazil, planning to stay just a year.

However, she lost her heart to her new country and apart from travelling overseas addressing international conferences, Dr Marques has been here ever since.

Dr Marques is equally passionate about her research. Within the CRN, she is looking at the deciphering the molecular genetics of cardiovascular diseases, including essential hypertension and pathological cardiac hypertrophy, with special attention to the role of microRNAs (ribonucleic acid) in gene expression.

“There are only two groups in Australia looking at this role of the small RNA molecules,” she said.

“This research is really new at FedUni and I believe we can establish a good research group here that will have excellent outcomes, particularly since, by being part of the CRN, we are able to co-operate with researchers from other universities.”

Dr Marques feels fortunate to be able to undertake such significant research in the country where she was surprised to make her home.

“I came here to spend a year here and study and improve my English and I just fell in love with Australia,” she said. “I quickly realised I wanted to stay, so I applied for a scholarship to do my PhD at the University of Sydney. Happily for me I was successful and I have been here ever since.

“Australia is beautiful. I enjoy the beaches and lifestyle, the culture and particularly the values that people have here. They are friendly, open and honest.”

Her research aligns closely with the CRN’s commitment to improve the health and well-being of regional communities through health innovation.

Dr Marques has an outstanding academic record both in Brazil and Australia.

In 2005 she completed her undergraduate degree in biological sciences at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), which is ranked as the third best university in Brazil. There, Dr Marques majored in the molecular, cellular and functional areas, obtaining first-class honours in genetics.

She then completed a masters degree in molecular biology and genetics, both through coursework and research, achieving maximum marks in the coursework section.

The masters degree was undertaken within the Post-Graduation Program of Genetics and Molecular Biology, a nationally recognised Centre of Excellence at the UFRGS. She worked there with the globally renowned Professor Claiton Bau in the field of psychiatric genetics, looking at alcoholism and attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity in adults.

Dr Marques then completed her PhD at the Bosch Institute at the University of Sydney, researching the molecular genetics of hypertension.

In her impressive academic career, Dr Marques has won a number of prestigious academic awards, including an Endeavour International Postgraduate Research Scholarship from the Australian Government and, more recently, the Bercovici Medal 2011 for the best publication by a postgraduate student at the Bosch Institute and the best student oral presentation at the High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia meeting in 2011.

She has also published 21 peer-reviewed papers, written three book chapters and presented her work at 23 national and 33 international conferences.