MENTEE – Amanda Woon

Amanda Woon, PhD student and IMNIS mentee in the MedTech-Pharma Pilot 2016 – Monash University (VIC) [Image: Dr Sri Ramarathinam, 2016]

“I undertook my PhD in a university, much of the career information provided was directed towards academia and industry-related areas were rarely touched upon. I saw the IMNIS program as an opportunity to learn more about the science industry field”

From 2013 until 2017, I undertook my PhD in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University. My PhD project involved examining the relatively new and exciting field of bat immunity. The reason we were interested in studying the immune system of bats is because they are able to harbour deadly viruses without developing any diseases. Apart from honing my technical skills in the lab and writing scientific papers, I was fortunate enough to attend many local conferences as well as one international conference during the course of my PhD. While in Europe for the international conference, I also visited several labs in the UK and Germany and since handing in my thesis, I have begun to look for post-doctoral research positions in Europe.

To balance the work of my PhD, I was also involved in several social post-graduate committees and also worked part-time as a Teaching Associate, supervising undergraduate lab and tutorial classes. I particularly enjoyed the latter as STEM education and communication is a great passion of mine. In 2015, I joined the Victorian IMNIS pilot program and was paired with a leader in science communication and social media, as well as a passionate advocate for women in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine). I was elated to be paired with my mentor in particular as gender equity in science is another topic that I care fervently about . My mentor and I have fostered a fantastic professional relationship and they still continue to inspire me to this day.

Why did you participate in the IMNIS program?

As with most PhD students, I was unsure what I wanted to pursue after my PhD – whether it be an academic position or a position in industry (or even a career outside of science altogether!). Given that I undertook my PhD in a university, much of the career information provided was directed towards academia and industry-related areas were rarely touched upon. I saw the IMNIS program as an opportunity to learn more about the science industry field.

What was the most important aspect of this professional relationship for you?

It was very important to me to form a genuine rapport with my mentor and be able to communicate freely. I also valued that the relationship was a two-way street, not only was I seeking advice from my mentor but they also showed interest in my studies, career aspirations and opinions.

How often did you meet with your mentor and did you prepare for these meetings? What was the best piece of advice you received?

My mentor and I meet once a month for coffee. For my first meeting, I did prepare questions regarding her career, her experience in industry and her views on gender equity in STEM in Australia, etc. However, it became clear that conversation flowed very easily for the both of us and subsequent meetings were informal and relaxed but always insightful and thought-provoking. One of the best pieces of advice that my mentor offered me was that I should pursue a career that would fulfil me, even though it may be challenging, rather than going down the path of least resistance.

Would you recommend participating in the IMNIS program to your peers?

Yes, it is an extremely rewarding program. The mentors involved in this program are some of the best in their respective fields and the insight offered by them is unrivalled.

What was the most rewarding aspect of the IMNIS program for you?

The most rewarding and perhaps unexpected aspect of the program was gaining a role model that not only inspired me but was encouraging in my ambitions and aspirations.

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