Guozhen Liu

What is your current position, and what do you do?
I am currently appointed as an ARC Future Fellow at the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences, and work closely with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) at Macquarie University. As a bioanalytical chemist, I am leading a team conducting trans-disciplinary research at the nanoscale, with a specific focus on nanoparticle-based biosensing and bioimaging; and the development of biocompatible and biodegradable devices that can operate in the body at a cellular level. I undertake fundamental scientific research, as well as applied and commercial activities with industrial partners, to create reliable, low-cost and non-invasive diagnostic tools for cancers and other diseases.

Describe your study/employment pathway so far
After completing my PhD in Chemistry in Prof Justin Gooding's group at UNSW, I undertook postdoctoral research at CSIRO and at UNSW before I accepted a Faculty position as Associate Professor at the Central China Normal University. I also gained experience with industry as an R&D Manager in China (2011-2015), developing medical devices at AgaMatrix Inc. Before I was awarded the ARC Future Fellowship in 2016, I worked as a Research Fellow at the CNBP for two and a half years. As such, I have been fortunate to accumulate extensive research experience in both academia and in industry, and within multidisciplinary environments, which has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my research career to date.

What has been your biggest challenge, career-wise?
Chinese born, the biggest challenge I’ve faced to date, has been maintaining my desired levels of productivity while living in Australia, which has a different culture and language. It takes time, but I’ve found that I’ve adjusted to Aussie life pretty well! Adjusting to a life as a mother of three while maintaining a research career has also been a significant challenge—a challenge faced by many women in the University environment; a challenge which has turned into a benefit for my time spent at the CNBP and its focus on a trans-disciplinary scientific approach. This has opened up new avenues in my nano-focused research, as well as provided new networks, which has greatly assisted the scope of work that I do.

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful scientist?
I think the greatest attributes of a successful scientist include diligence, curiosity, resilience, and cooperation.

How have you used the skills/knowledge that you acquired, from studying chemistry, in your current role?
Chemistry plays an active and essential role in my trans-disciplinary research. The skills and knowledge I have built up in this space are able to be used, in conjunction with elements from other disciplines, to help solve large scale problems related to sensing, imaging and exploring within the body, a notoriously difficult environment at the cellular and nanoscale level. Bringing together chemistry with biology and physics, and taking the best that all these disciplines have to offer, has assisted me in expanding my research thinking, focus and outcomes!

What are your interests outside of work?
I am a plant lover with an interest in the art of flower arranging. I find it extremely enjoyable to design nicely styled floral arrangements for the home and I find this hobby helps me to relax as well as spark my imagination and creativity. I am also a big fan of photography and take shots whenever I can.

What helps you achieve a work-life balance?
Managing time wisely and family support helps me achieve a reasonable work-life balance. I have three young kids so obviously, it can be a bit of a challenge at times. I tend to dedicate the early morning for my reading and writing, this really helps me keep my productivity levels up.

What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
My advice would be 1) to be clear what you want to achieve and then strive to become excellent at it; 2) to learn as many techniques as you can, but always with a critical mind; 3) to improve your communication skills—you will have to discuss your science, not just with colleagues but in the grant writing process, or in networking, collaborating or taking advantage of other opportunities that might come your way.

Is there anything you would like to share?
Maintaining scientific excellence takes a lot of effort especially for women who may be juggling a career with family responsibilities. However, if you have a passion for advancing science, and a willingness to develop your potential, and a work-hard ethic, you can achieve great things, regardless of your gender or background. Believe in yourself and you can absolutely make it!

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