Skip to main content

Yee Lian Chew Dr

NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow

  • NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow - University of Wollongong 2020 - 2024
  • Lecturer - School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience - University of Wollongong 2019 - 2020

Overview


Yee Lian Chew obtained her PhD under the supervision of Dr Hannah Nicholas/Professor Juergen Goetz at the University of Sydney. She moved to Cambridge, UK as a Medical Research Council Career Development Fellow in 2015, and later a European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) Postdoctoral Fellow (2016-2018) in the lab of Dr William Schafer at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. She is currently a Lecturer at the School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience at UOW, and is based at IHMRI. Her research focuses on mapping neuromodulator networks and functionally characterising their roles in C. elegans adaptive behaviour.

The lab is actively seeking enthusiastic and curious Honours/Masters/PhD students. If you are interested, please get in touch! Happy to assist with writing AGRTP/UPA applications. Email: ylchew@uow.edu.au

Top Publications


Research Overview


  • Nerve cells (neurons) are highly interconnected, which brings about a dilemma: a signal propagating through a neuron that is connected to many partners can take many possible paths – so how is the eventual path, and the resulting behavioural response, determined? This path is normally robustly selected, suggesting that “rules” exist to ensure that a particular external cue yields a consistent result. However, under new environmental conditions, the chosen neural path must be reconfigured in order to trigger new survival behaviours. For all behaviours, especially those dependent on prior experience, the ability to reconfigure neural circuits is critical to enable dynamic responses to environmental changes. The path through which a signal propagates in the nervous system can be influenced through factors known as “neuromodulators”. These molecules specifically alter the composition of neural circuits, thereby changing the path and resulting behavioural outputs . However, the principles of how chemical signals bring about specific functional changes in neural circuits is largely unknown, representing a key gap in our understanding of nervous system function.

    The research vision of the lab is to reveal fundamental concepts of neuromodulation within neural circuits. We will utilise the power of the nematode model Caenorhabditis elegans, the best-characterised experimental nervous system, to characterise the signals that are required to reorganise neuronal circuits during learning and experience-dependent behaviours.

    We are particularly interested in neurological conditions in which changes to individual neurons or circuits can lead to pathology or disease. Currently we are focussing on chronic pain (research funded by NHMRC and Rebecca L Cooper foundation) and neurodegenerative disease (research funded by Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, University of Wollongong).

Available as Research Supervisor

Selected Publications


Impact Story


  • My research program asks the question: what enables the relatively fixed structure of our brains to perform flexible and dynamic learning? Since 2011, I have used <em>C. elegans </em>(worm)  as a simple system in which to model how this process takes place in more complex brains, such as those of humans. Using the worm, I have characterised important genes in the nervous system (Chew et al. J Cell Sci, 2013), tested the idea that network theory could be used to predict brain cell function (Yan et al. Nature, 2017) and identified the 'wireless' signals required for experience-dependent changes in pain responses (Chew et al. Neuron, 2018). <br /><br />Related to this work, I have been involved in science outreach since the early days of my scientific career. During my PhD, I was selected to be a national finalist in Fresh Science 2013, a scicomm initiative by Science in Public (<a href="https://freshscience.org.au/2013/nationalfinaldetails" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://freshscience.org.au/2013/nationalfinaldetails</a>) through which I participated in public lectures at the Museum of Victoria, wrote a magazine article for Australasian Science and gave a short talk at a pub! My work was also featured on the Facebook page ScienceAlert, where my story received over 4500 likes. During my postdoctoral research in Cambridge UK, I continued to be an enthusiastic STEM ambassador, being involved in the institute Open Day (2017), the Cambridge Science Festival (2017-2018) and visits to school science clubs. In 2018, I co-created a YouTube video on my research (<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQB_3fpwh-g" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQB_3fpwh-g</a>) that has been viewed >990 times.<br /><br />Now an independent researcher and lecturer at UOW, I continue to be passionate about science communication and was involved in several events during the Sydney Science Festival (August 2019). I was one of 12 women participating in Soapbox Science, an initiative to raise the visibility and profile of women in STEM, where I spoke about my research (standing on a literal soapbox!) among passersby at the very busy Circular Quay, Sydney (<a href="http://soapboxscience.org/soapbox-science-2019-sydney/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">http://soapboxscience.org/soapbox-science-2019-sydney/</a>). I also was invited for speaking engagements at the Australian Museum and the Campbelltown library (<a href="https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/what-a-worm-can-teach-us-about-our-brains-tickets-61669014683" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/what-a-worm-can-teach-us-about-our-brains-tickets-61669014683</a>) and at the UOW Open Day. As part of the library talk, I engaged with the public through interactive activities, such as matching the number of brain cells to particular animals (do you know how many neurons a cockatoo has? >2 billion!) I was also one of two 'featured experts' invited to speak on the UOW podcast 'Can you tell me How?' explaining how scientists use fundamental biological research to advance health/medicine such as neurodegenerative disease. I regularly engage with local radio (ABC Illawarra 97.3) and social media (Twitter @wormychew, <a href="https://twitter.com/ihmri/status/1186850841615065093" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://twitter.com/ihmri/status/1186850841615065093</a>). Recently, I made an 'Elevator Pitch' video with ABC Science, describing scientific understanding of learning/memory in <2 minutes (<a href="https://t.co/rWEJrYIyjP?amp=1" title="https://youtu.be/L-rty-TU1mE" target="_blank" data-focusable="true" rel="noopener">youtu.be/L-rty-TU1mE</a> ), which has been viewed >1.1k times since December.<br /><br />Besides Soapbox Science, I have supported diversity initiatives such as through collaborations with the Australian Science Communicators organisation (https://asc.asn.au/blog/2019/12/02/perspectives-on-diversity-in-stemm-checkout-the-video-here/).<br /><br /><!--2--><!--2-->I plan to continue my public engagement in the future through podcasts, social media and public lectures.

Available as Research Supervisor

Potential Supervision Topics


  • Projects available:
    1) Luqin-like peptides: sex specific roles in feeding and mating?
    2) De-sensitisation pathways via dopamine signalling
    3) Neural biochemistry of associative learning

Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated) The Molecular Mechanism of Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis Influenced by Dietary Fibre Types Wang, Zhizhen
    Doctor of Philosophy Targeting heat shock factor 1 as a potential strategy for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases Claesson, Kristian

Keywords


  • neuroscience, neuropeptides, neuromodulators, dopamine, model organisms, C. elegans, learning, animal behaviour

Full Name


  • Dr Yee Lian Chew

Mailing Address


  • Building 42, Room 315

    Molecular Horizons Building

    Wollongong

    NSW

    2522

    Australia

Located In Facility


Top Publications


Research Overview


  • Nerve cells (neurons) are highly interconnected, which brings about a dilemma: a signal propagating through a neuron that is connected to many partners can take many possible paths – so how is the eventual path, and the resulting behavioural response, determined? This path is normally robustly selected, suggesting that “rules” exist to ensure that a particular external cue yields a consistent result. However, under new environmental conditions, the chosen neural path must be reconfigured in order to trigger new survival behaviours. For all behaviours, especially those dependent on prior experience, the ability to reconfigure neural circuits is critical to enable dynamic responses to environmental changes. The path through which a signal propagates in the nervous system can be influenced through factors known as “neuromodulators”. These molecules specifically alter the composition of neural circuits, thereby changing the path and resulting behavioural outputs . However, the principles of how chemical signals bring about specific functional changes in neural circuits is largely unknown, representing a key gap in our understanding of nervous system function.

    The research vision of the lab is to reveal fundamental concepts of neuromodulation within neural circuits. We will utilise the power of the nematode model Caenorhabditis elegans, the best-characterised experimental nervous system, to characterise the signals that are required to reorganise neuronal circuits during learning and experience-dependent behaviours.

    We are particularly interested in neurological conditions in which changes to individual neurons or circuits can lead to pathology or disease. Currently we are focussing on chronic pain (research funded by NHMRC and Rebecca L Cooper foundation) and neurodegenerative disease (research funded by Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, University of Wollongong).

Selected Publications


Impact Story


  • My research program asks the question: what enables the relatively fixed structure of our brains to perform flexible and dynamic learning? Since 2011, I have used <em>C. elegans </em>(worm)  as a simple system in which to model how this process takes place in more complex brains, such as those of humans. Using the worm, I have characterised important genes in the nervous system (Chew et al. J Cell Sci, 2013), tested the idea that network theory could be used to predict brain cell function (Yan et al. Nature, 2017) and identified the 'wireless' signals required for experience-dependent changes in pain responses (Chew et al. Neuron, 2018). <br /><br />Related to this work, I have been involved in science outreach since the early days of my scientific career. During my PhD, I was selected to be a national finalist in Fresh Science 2013, a scicomm initiative by Science in Public (<a href="https://freshscience.org.au/2013/nationalfinaldetails" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://freshscience.org.au/2013/nationalfinaldetails</a>) through which I participated in public lectures at the Museum of Victoria, wrote a magazine article for Australasian Science and gave a short talk at a pub! My work was also featured on the Facebook page ScienceAlert, where my story received over 4500 likes. During my postdoctoral research in Cambridge UK, I continued to be an enthusiastic STEM ambassador, being involved in the institute Open Day (2017), the Cambridge Science Festival (2017-2018) and visits to school science clubs. In 2018, I co-created a YouTube video on my research (<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQB_3fpwh-g" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQB_3fpwh-g</a>) that has been viewed >990 times.<br /><br />Now an independent researcher and lecturer at UOW, I continue to be passionate about science communication and was involved in several events during the Sydney Science Festival (August 2019). I was one of 12 women participating in Soapbox Science, an initiative to raise the visibility and profile of women in STEM, where I spoke about my research (standing on a literal soapbox!) among passersby at the very busy Circular Quay, Sydney (<a href="http://soapboxscience.org/soapbox-science-2019-sydney/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">http://soapboxscience.org/soapbox-science-2019-sydney/</a>). I also was invited for speaking engagements at the Australian Museum and the Campbelltown library (<a href="https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/what-a-worm-can-teach-us-about-our-brains-tickets-61669014683" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/what-a-worm-can-teach-us-about-our-brains-tickets-61669014683</a>) and at the UOW Open Day. As part of the library talk, I engaged with the public through interactive activities, such as matching the number of brain cells to particular animals (do you know how many neurons a cockatoo has? >2 billion!) I was also one of two 'featured experts' invited to speak on the UOW podcast 'Can you tell me How?' explaining how scientists use fundamental biological research to advance health/medicine such as neurodegenerative disease. I regularly engage with local radio (ABC Illawarra 97.3) and social media (Twitter @wormychew, <a href="https://twitter.com/ihmri/status/1186850841615065093" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://twitter.com/ihmri/status/1186850841615065093</a>). Recently, I made an 'Elevator Pitch' video with ABC Science, describing scientific understanding of learning/memory in <2 minutes (<a href="https://t.co/rWEJrYIyjP?amp=1" title="https://youtu.be/L-rty-TU1mE" target="_blank" data-focusable="true" rel="noopener">youtu.be/L-rty-TU1mE</a> ), which has been viewed >1.1k times since December.<br /><br />Besides Soapbox Science, I have supported diversity initiatives such as through collaborations with the Australian Science Communicators organisation (https://asc.asn.au/blog/2019/12/02/perspectives-on-diversity-in-stemm-checkout-the-video-here/).<br /><br /><!--2--><!--2-->I plan to continue my public engagement in the future through podcasts, social media and public lectures.

Potential Supervision Topics


  • Projects available:
    1) Luqin-like peptides: sex specific roles in feeding and mating?
    2) De-sensitisation pathways via dopamine signalling
    3) Neural biochemistry of associative learning

Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated) The Molecular Mechanism of Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis Influenced by Dietary Fibre Types Wang, Zhizhen
    Doctor of Philosophy Targeting heat shock factor 1 as a potential strategy for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases Claesson, Kristian

Keywords


  • neuroscience, neuropeptides, neuromodulators, dopamine, model organisms, C. elegans, learning, animal behaviour

Full Name


  • Dr Yee Lian Chew

Mailing Address


  • Building 42, Room 315

    Molecular Horizons Building

    Wollongong

    NSW

    2522

    Australia

Located In Facility