|Dr Janet Towns, PhD|
Janet's thesis title is, "Modern Ethical Syphilology: Elucidating Treponema pallidum transmission; and novel strategies for improving early detection of syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections". She was supervised by Professor Kit Fairley, A/Prof Eric Chow, A/Prof Lei Zhang, Professor Marcus Chen (Melbourne Sexual Health Centre) and Professor Stephen Graves (University of Newcastle).
Syphilis emerged at the time of Columbus and is a modern plague caused by the 'stealth pathogen', Treponema pallidum. Dr Towns said, "It is a disease shrouded in stigma with a long and unethical history of human research. I aimed to elucidate aspects of early syphilis [syphilis of less than one year's duration], to guide STI prevention strategies. The main finding, previously unrecognised, was that oral detection of Treponema pallidum is common in early syphilis.
"During recruitment for our syphilis study, we developed iSpySTI, an innovative, data-driven, Bayesian network-powered, web-based tool that generates a probabilistic diagnosis of likely sexual health conditions, and improving access to health care."
And life post-PhD?
Janet says that she is currently enjoying both not doing a PhD and the lifting of lockdown restrictions in Melbourne. She is considering a number of exciting opportunities.