Jessica Whyte, IMNIS mentee in the 2017 MedTech-Pharma program in Queensland (QUT)

“[The IMNIS program] has allowed me to talk to people I would never otherwise meet, but also to connect with them in a way that is meaningful.”

I am currently undertaking my PhD at the Queensland University of Technology studying the mechanisms of genetic changes associated with ankylosing spondylitis. Ankylosing spondylitis is an immune-mediated inflammatory disease that which can lead to uncontrolled bone growth resulting in fusion of the spine and sacroiliac joints. I recently took part in the 2017 MedTech-Pharma Mentoring program.

My previous experience has covered a range of areas. I previously completed a double degree in Law and Science, with a major in Genetics from the University of Queensland. Following this I obtained Honour first class, with a project examining a potential drug target in the fungal species Cryptococcus neoformans. Recently I completed my Practical Legal Training (PLT) certificate.

I have pursued opportunities to explain my project and to be involved in encouraging other researchers. I was a runner up in the QUT Faculty of Healthy 3MT final, was the Vice-Chair of the Translational Research Symposium 2018, and currently site as the QUT student representative on the Translational Research Institute (TRI) Mentoring committee. I am keen to be involved in enabling the translation of research into the clinic.

Why did you participate in the IMNIS program?

I was keen to meet with individuals involved in industry, to gain insight into their experience transitioning from academia to industry, and the work that is available. In addition, I was unsure of my future directions and wanted to get some mentoring.

How often did you meet with your mentor and did you prepare for these meetings?

My mentor Rachel and I met about once a month to talk. I tried to pick a single topic that I wished to discuss each time, but it was often the topics that emerged separately during our talks that were the most helpful.

What was the best piece of advice you received? What was the most important aspect of this professional relationship for you?

The best aspect of this professional relationship is that your mentor is outside of your research area, and university. This distance provides a fresh perspective from which to receive advice. Rachel’s experience in moving away from academia was so important to helping me confirm my own opinions, and provided me with pertinent advice to use during my PhD.

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

I would definitely recommend IMNIS to others. Not only have I met Rachel who has, and will hopefully continue to be, a fantastic mentor, but she has introduced me to new networks of people, and opportunities to engage with new career opportunities.

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

I enjoyed meeting individuals from a broad range of areas, and having the advice and guidance from those experiences. It has allowed me to talk to people I would never otherwise meet, but also to connect with them in a way that is meaningful. The mix of networking with panel discussions allowed for real discussion to emerge on the topics raised during the panel.

Did IMNIS help you get to where you are now?

I am still finishing my PhD, but IMNIS has helped me start to plan my career after my PhD with more confidence and with a clearer idea of what I want to achieve. This has also contributed to greater confidence in my PhD research, and other aspects of my life.