Research Career and Contribution
Dr Natalia Castaño Rodríguez is a WSTEM Early Career Researcher, who has worked in the fields of molecular biology, microbiology, biostatistics and bioinformatics related to immunogenetics and genetics of cancer for the past 10 years. She currently leads a research group composed of higher degree research and Honours students, all dedicated to investigate the interplay between host immunogenetic factors and gastrointestinal dysbiosis in gastrointestinal carcinogenesis (mainly stomach cancer) and other chronic inflammatory conditions (mainly inflammatory bowel diseases).
Prior to moving to Australia, Natalia undertook research trainee fellowships in Colombia (Biological Research Corporation (CIB), Medellín, Colombia) and Mexico (Occidental Biomedical Research Centre (CIBO), Guadalajara, Mexico), where she acquired skills in the areas of human genetics and autoimmunity. Following the completion of her MD degree, Natalia funded her postgraduate studies with competitive scholarships from Colombia and Australia (COLFUTURO Scholarship and UNSW University International Postgraduate Award) to investigate the role of innate immunity in stomach cancer. After a stint as a research associate in the Helicobacter and Campylobacter laboratory at UNSW, she was then awarded an Early Career Fellowship by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to expand her work on the role of immunogenetics, particularly related to pattern recognition receptors and the autophagy pathway, in Helicobacter pylori-related stomach cancer (May 2016- April 2020). During this time, she further funded her research with a Cancer Australia Priority-driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme (PdCCRS) Young Investigator grant (2017) as well as a Gastroenterological Society of Australia Project Grant (2019) to investigate the contribution of dysregulated autophagy to carcinogenesis in the stomach. Having established herself as an emerging leader in the field of immunogenetics in cancer, Natalia recently secured a Cancer Institute NSW ECF (2020-2023) as well as a UNSW Scientia Fellowship (2020-2024).
If you would like to learn more about Natalia and her research, please read these layperson articles published in Nature Communications Biology, Can Too Foundation and Medscape. A full list of Natalia’s scientific publications can also be found here.
As a young female ethnic researcher, embracing diversity has been a priority for Natalia. In 2019, she was selected to be part of UNSW’s Women in Maths and Science Champions Program, she is a member of important Australian gender equity societies, and her research includes marginalised populations from South America and East Asia. She is also actively involved in early career academic representation at UNSW, being the Chair of the Early Career Academic Network (ECAN) and UNSW’s representative in the Early- and Mid-Career Researchers (EMCR) forum.