Stephen Parker

What is your current position, and what do you do?
I am currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at UNSW Chemistry, undertaking research focused on understanding how cancer spreads throughout the body. I am able to achieve this through a device that I developed during my Ph.D., which allows me to isolate cancerous cells from the blood. Where my work differs from existing technology is that I am able to then separate these cancerous cells individually, so I can investigate the role each cancerous cell has towards the spread of cancer.

Describe your study/employment pathway so far
Pretty standard academia… undergraduate… Ph.D…. postdoc

What has been your biggest challenge, career-wise?
Trying to figure out what is most likely to get me out of bed every morning. I feel that I am actually at quite a vital stage of my career presently, so trying to figure out where I want to go next, and how I will get there is quite challenging.

What achievement are you most proud of?
That moment I got the letter saying “Your Ph.D. has been conferred”

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful scientist?
Resilience and persistence, as well as great problem-solving skills and the ability to critically think about the benefits of your work. However, I feel I can’t emphasise resilience and persistence enough.

How have you used the skills/knowledge that you acquired, from studying chemistry, in your current role?
Well seeing as I am still in a role very much applicable to my degree, I use a lot of the technical skills of analytical and spectroscopic chemistry daily.

What are your interests outside of work?
Sport…in particular skiing and golf

What helps you achieve a work-life balance?
I avoid doing work on the weekends…it makes sense, but you would be surprised how many scientists do not do this. I also see exercise as an important aspect of life, even if it is just a brief walk, I feel it has a positive effect on my mental wellbeing

What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
People will say “Do what makes you happy” to which I reply “I am young, how am I supposed to know what makes me happy?” I think a better way to think about it is “What will I learn when undertaking this venture?” You will find you will have more motivation to show up to work if what you will potentially learn excites you.

Is there anything you would like to share?
Don’t be afraid to give something a try. The more you realise something is not for you, the one step closer you are to finding the thing that is.

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