Favourite Thing: Getting an exciting new result from my experiments in the lab
Oak Flats Primary School, Oak Flats High School, The Illawarra Grammar School – all in NSW
Bachelor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Wollongong, NSW. A triple mix of biology, chemistry and medical science.
PhD at the WEHI in Melbourne, then moved to England to work at the University of York
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, VIC (WEHI)
I’m a malaria research scientist
Me and my work
I am creating a new malaria vaccine – cause there isn’t one!
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite that lives in the body inside red blood cells and is spread by mosquitoes. Half the world’s population is at risk of malaria infection and somewhere in the world malaria kills one child every 30 seconds. There is currently no vaccine to prevent malaria, and that’s where my research comes in. I am working on a new malaria vaccine that’s still in the early stages of lab experiments and will hopefully reach the first round of testing in people in the next few years.
My Typical Day
A typical day is spent bouncing from my lab to my desk and is almost always different to the day before.
Being a scientist is kind of like being self-employed. I have my own project and I have the freedom to decide which experiments to do when. One of my friends once described it as more like a hobby than a job! But it can be hard work at times, but I like being able to plan my own day and nothing beats the feeling of doing an experiment that proves the idea you had was the right one.
In a typical day I put my lab coat on and set up some experiments. At the moment I am looking at the how the cells in the immune system react to malaria. Science involves a lot of team work, and I often have meetings with other scientists to share our results and our ideas.
I also do a lot of writing as part of my job, I’ve just finished the final edits on a chapter I wrote for a textbook which will be published later this year. It’s always quite cool to see your name in print! Back in the lab, I’m often found at the microscope, checking out my malaria cells that I grow in a petri dish in the lab. And this is what they look like:
When I’m not in the lab, I can be heard talking science on the Melbourne community radio station 3RRR 102.7 FM on Sundays at 11am on “Einstein a go-go”
What I'd do with the money
I would use the money to create health science information packs for school students in Papua New Guinea
Malaria is the biggest cause of illness and death in Papua New Guinea, one of Australia’s nearest neighbours. The institute where I work has a partnership with scientists in PNG to work together on malaria research. Many of our studies involve visiting local schools in the Madang area to give health checks to students and treat them for malaria. These schools don’t have a lot of resources to teach science or to inform students about health and disease. If I won the money, I would use it to create a health science info pack for students and teachers in PNG. This would include posters, books, worksheets and materials about malaria and other health issues.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Likes talking science!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Elbow, Boy and Bear, Radiohead, Nick Cave, Cat Empire.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Going on safari in Kenya and waking up at dawn to go see the lions. Scary but exciting.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I wish that malaria will be eradicated in my lifetime. I wish that I could fly (I dream about this all the time). And of course, I wish that I had an infinite amount of wishes!
What did you want to be after you left school?
A medical researcher – and here I am :)
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
Yes! For talking in class, and passing notes; this was before we had text messages…
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
I organised a protest rally: the Melbourne “Rally for Research” to protect funding for medical research in Australia.
Tell us a joke.
What’s white and can’t jump over fences? A fridge.