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What is your current position, and what do you do?
I’m a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Bioengineering at Harvard University, working with Professor Samir Mitragotri. I’m working on uncovering the secrets of ionic liquids and deep eutectic solvents, to enable them to solve big problems in biomedicine.

Describe your study/employment pathway so far
After completing my undergraduate degree at UNSW Chemistry in 2012, I completed a DPhil at the University of Oxford in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry under the supervision of Professor Richard Compton, with a focus on nano-electrochemistry in ionic liquids in 2016. I remained at Oxford for an additional year as a postdoctoral research associate, before moving to Harvard in October 2017. My research here focuses on using ionic liquids in biomedical applications.

What has been your biggest challenge, career-wise?
I’ve been very lucky to have extremely supportive mentors and supervisors who have been there to encourage me when non-scientific life has gotten in the way! For me, it’s a combination of having to move to new countries and cultures, and dealing with grief and mental illness. I lost my Mum in the final year of my undergraduate degree, and have grappled with depression from a young age. Science has always been a great escape for me in this way!

What achievement are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my work mentoring and supervising younger scientists. Seeing their progress is almost as good as discovering something brand new in the lab!

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful scientist?
I think how you deal with failure and set-backs has a lot to do with your success as a researcher – you need to be able to turn up every day and climb back up on the horse to try again. Being able to be wrong, and learn from others is critical. Finally, I believe that a burning curiosity, and a passion for seeking the truth are essential.

How have you used the skills/knowledge that you acquired, from studying chemistry, in your current role?
I use the principles of physical chemistry to investigate how ionic liquids operate in a biomedical context in order to better design them for clinical use.

What are your interests outside of work?
I love singing, and have recently joined a queer choir in Boston. I’m passionate about creating a world where everybody is welcome and feels safe, and work actively to dismantle white supremacy, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, and patriarchy wherever I go.

What helps you achieve a work-life balance?
It’s so important to be able to leave the work at work – especially when things aren’t going well that day! My life is made up of wonderful people, including those who dedicate themselves to things other than science, which I think helps.

What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
Fully embrace the opportunities given to you. If you’re considering research, get yourself into a real research laboratory as early as possible to see if it’s for you. Seek out mentors and cheerleaders and listen to them!

Is there anything you would like to share?
For those considering a scientific career but who look around thinking ‘there isn’t anyone who looks like me’, you deserve to be here! You have a valuable perspective – find the people who will champion you in the face of structural adversity.

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