What is your scientific background?
I studied microbiology as my Bachelor of Science at the University of Glasgow, UK, and continued on to do a PhD in microbiology at the University of Sheffield, UK. I completed a short postdoctoral position in Sheffield developing microscopy techniques before taking the plunge and moving overseas to Sydney, Australia in 2012. I have been working as a Research Fellow at the i3 institute at the University of Technology Sydney ever since, where I continue to research how bacteria grow and divide in different environments.
Why did you choose to become a scientist?
I have always been observant and focused on details, so the chance to explore my curiosity of how the world works really appeals to me! When I was a child I don’t think I realised I could be a scientist as an actual job, but when I was around 10 I was selected to attend a Women in STEMM workshop. It was run by female scientists and engineers and we spent two days doing fun activities like building rockets. It was at that point that I knew I wanted to do something science-based when I grew up!
How did you choose your field of study?
I originally applied to study human anatomy as my Bachelor of Science, but I was lucky that the degree structure at Glasgow University was flexible and diverse. When I was there I found myself enjoying the microbiology lectures the most, so I swapped to studying this. During my PhD, my grandfather became seriously ill from a ‘superbug’ infection, and it really made me realise the importance of studying bacteria to try and find new antibiotics to treat infections.
Did you ever doubt your abilities as a scientist? Why? How did you handle these feelings?
All the time, and still do! Being a junior scientist in an environment where everyone is a high achiever is sometimes daunting to feel like I belong here! Having a strong support system with my peers really helps, and I have been involved in establishing an association for early career researchers within our faculty to improve community spirit. I also have a great mentor who gives sage advice about my capabilities and encourages me to push myself.
How does your family regard your career choice?
I was the first in my immediate family to attend University and complete a PhD, and my family have always been proud of my academic achievements – especially my grandparents. They definitely think it’s cool that I am a scientist, but because my research is based on fundamental understanding of basic biological processes, it can be hard for them to understand the application of my work. I hope that as a scientific community we can improve our communication to the general public about the importance of research!
If you had the option to give advice to a younger version of yourself, what would that be?
Believe in yourself! And just do it!