Dr Kelly Smith

Senior Research Fellow - GL

Institute for Molecular Bioscience

Affiliated Fellow

School of Biomedical Sciences
Faculty of Medicine
+61 7 334 62343
+61 7 334 62053


Dr Kelly Smith is a developmental biologist studying morphogenesis of the heart. She completed her PhD in 2005 under the guidance of Arthur Shulkes and Graham Baldwin (University of Melbourne) studying gastrin-associated peptides and their role in gastric and colonic growth.

For her postdoctoral studies, Kelly moved to the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands, where she investigated early cardiac morphogenesis in the lab of Jeroen Bakkers. Here, Kelly used the zebrafish model to study cardiac cell behaviours in development and to uncover the genetic pathways regulating left-right asymmetry, heart tube assembly and cardiac valve development (the latter of which was translated into the clinical setting, with the discovery of genetic mutations in patients with cardiac valve defects).

Kelly moved to UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience in 2010 where she continues her research into cardiac development.

Primarily using the zebrafish model, Kelly's group has recently performed a large forward genetic screen to identify novel genes in cardiac development. They are also generating a range of new tools to study the cell biology of heart development, and are branching out, using other models (such as mouse and cell culture) to enhance their research into specific processes of interest.

Research Interests

  • Genetics and cell biology of cardiac development
    Our survival is contingent on a correctly formed and functioning heart. It’s architecture is so precise that even small deviations from its normal structure can have fatal consequences, in the form of congenital heart defects. The complexity of the heart is achieved during embryonic development, beginning with simple tissue primordia that proliferate, migrate, differentiate, integrate and reorganize in an exact sequence of events to form the final organ. The vasculature is also centrally important in cardiovascular diseases and in cancer progression. We aim to better understand how the vasculature forms during development and to translate our findings into a deeper understanding of disease. We study several aspects of vascular development and biology.

Research Impacts

The human heart is critical for survival and yet, despite its importance, we still lack a basic understanding of how it forms. Discovering new genes will help us understand how to build a new heart. This information in turn will aid in devising strategies to repair hearts damaged by congenital and acquired heart disease.


  • Doctor of Philosopy, Victoria University
  • Bachelor of Science (Hons), Victoria University


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Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision