Kathleen Mikkelsen poses with VU researcher Vasso Apostolopoulos in front of Vegemite, Marmite and other vitamin-B products
Kathleen Mikkelsen with VU researcher Vasso Apostolopoulos

Victoria University’s Kathleen Mikkelsen is back in the lab working on her PhD in immunology after winning Victoria University’s Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT) and representing VU at the State finals.

3MT is an international competition which requires participating PhD students to explain their thesis in a simple and engaging way to a general audience – in only three minutes!

It allowed Kathleen to share her work looking at B vitamins and how they relate to inflammation and the progression to chronic disease with people outside the field of research.

“It was definitely challenging having to condense something you’d been working on for so long into this tiny snapshot and also in a way that everyone would be able to understand and find interesting,” Kathleen said.

“The competition was a great way to learn about what other researchers are doing in their fields and an opportunity to share my work with a different audience.”

Kathleen’s interest in medicine and science was piqued at a young age; however, it was only after a successful career in music and drama that she decided to enter the field of biomedicine.

Her love of singing saw her form ABBA tribute show BABBA and tour Australia for 10 years, but a lifelong love of learning and a desire to help others through the field of medicine saw Kathleen enrol in a Bachelor of Science at VU.

During her third year she completed a validated study into yeast-based spreads, which piqued her interest in B vitamins.

“We looked at B vitamins in regards to their impact on mental health and whether people consuming them have lower levels of anxiety and stress,” she said.

“We found that people who regularly had yeast-based spreads showed significantly lower incidence of stress and anxiety than those who didn’t have them. Furthermore, people who consumed yeast-based spreads with added B12 were even less stressed and anxious.”

Kathleen is now focusing on Vitamin B6 and B12 and their impact on inflammation.

“Inflammation can lead to cancer progression by genetic change. If we can make cells less inflammatory through Vitamin B then we can potentially lessen the likelihood of cancer.”

Her love and knowledge of singing and drama have not been completely replaced by science though. Kathleen uses some of her drama-instruction techniques to teach science subjects, and continues to work as a musician teaching children to sing.

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