Jacqueline Matthews

What is your current position, and what do you do?
Professor of Protein Chemistry, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, the University of Sydney. I run a research group at the University of Sydney, where we focus on trying to understand, at the molecular level, how sets of proteins come together in different combinations and permutations to bind DNA and switch genes on and off. When these processes work properly they lead to normal development and healthy lives, but when they go wrong they can cause disease, including cancers. I also give lectures and have recently gotten more involved in some more management roles

Describe your study/employment pathway so far
I carried out my BSc UNSW Hons I (1989) co-majoring in Biochemistry and Chemistry, with an honours year in Chemistry; PhD from University of Cambridge (1995) in Biological Chemistry (Protein folding); Postdoc at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Melbourne (1994-1998) looking at protein folding and protein-protein interactions in cytokine signalling. I moved to the University of Sydney in 1998 and established my own group in 1999 in what was then the Department of Biochemistry.

What has been your biggest challenge, career-wise?
Dealing with rejection when papers aren't accepted or grant applications don't get funding, and having to tell people that they are out of a job because their salary hasn't been funded.

What achievement are you most proud of?
Seeing my research students excel and then make the transition to independent research careers.

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful scientist?
Persistence, precision and hard work. Having great ideas is also important, but in reality the other attributes take most of your effort.

What are your interests outside of work?
It varies - bushwalking is usually up there, some sort of art or crafts, and right now circus arts (hula hooping and static trapeze - sometimes together, you are never too old to learn new things, right?).

What helps you achieve a work-life balance?
Having times when I switch off my email, taking time to enjoy things, and learning new skills or hobbies that are about doing and reacting and creating that are (mostly) away from a computer.

What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
Do what you are passionate about, be prepared to work hard, and listen to feedback.

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