CQU family connections helped to inspire PhD success

15 December 2021

CQUniversity runs deep in the veins of the Hiskens family' and it became the driving force behind the latest family member's PhD success.

Dr Matthew Hiskens last week was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy at the Rockhampton graduation for his research into the neurobiology of mild traumatic brain injuries and the neurodegenerative conditions that can arise from repetitive injuries.

"It's humbling to be able to play a small part in the rich family history at CQU'" Dr Hiskens said.

"My great uncle Bruce Hiskens served as Vice-Chancellor' mum and dad and many other relatives are alumni' and most recently my wife Gemma graduated with her bachelor's degree in 2017.

"Every PhD has unexpected challenges' mine was no different' and in the difficult circumstances it can be the little things that you cling to that see you through.

"For me' knowing that those inspirational people had walked these same paths helped me to keep moving forward."

Dr Hiskens' research has the potential to make life-saving changes to the way certain brain conditions are diagnosed and treated.

"At the moment' commonly used diagnostic imaging and pathology are not sensitive enough to be useful in concussion' and conditions such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy can only be diagnosed post-mortem.

"With that in mind' the key aspects of the project were identifying molecular targets to assist in diagnosis and prognosis following concussion and as targets for therapeutic intervention to avoid chronic disease."

Dr Hiskens began his work life as a dietitian in the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service in 2011' and alongside his clinical role lectured into sports science and medical science courses at CQU from 2015.

This gave him the opportunity to discuss research ideas with likeminded colleagues' and after a few years of conversations' he began his PhD.

Dr Hiskens' parents' who were visiting from the United States' were on hand last week to attend his graduation' making it an even more special occasion.

"Family is really important' and despite the distance I've been fortunate to have them here for so many big events – my wedding' when each of my boys were born' and now this graduation ceremony.

"Dad has accomplished so much in his career – he is the Vennema Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan' and mum is a talented maths teacher whom I had the opportunity to be taught by back in high school.

"They have been immensely influential' and I have benefited from the love of learning they instilled and the work ethic they display."

Dr Hiskens is currently employed as a Research Fellow at the Mackay Base Hospital in the Mackay Institute of Research and Innovation.

"In this role I have the incredible opportunity to work with clinicians in developing and undertaking medical research projects to improve outcomes for our patients."