Juan Miguel Balbin, mentee in the 2020-21 program in SA (University of Adelaide).

My name is Miguel and I am a 3rd year PhD student at the Research Centre for Infectious Diseases at the University of Adelaide studying the molecular biology of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Specifically, my project is to characterise several novel proteins and their physiological functions during host cell infection.

When I completed my BSc (Advanced) in 2017, I was at a loss as to what to do next while still being involved in science. The “canonical” path forward seemed to pursue postgraduate study – however 3 years later I found myself with dwindling interest in chasing the life of an academic. Seeking more, I turned to teaching undergraduate students though laboratory demonstrating, as well as taking part in organising committees and conference volunteering. Through these extracurricular experiences, I found myself more engaged and driven when working in structured teams rather than on primarily solo projects such as in my PhD.

A pivotal moment when I realised I wasn’t destined for academia was during late 2019 at the end of my 2nd year. I was part of a short course called “Concepts in Parasitology” hosted by the Australian Society for Parasitology and the Australian National University in Kioloa, NSW. The program aimed to expose early career researchers either to (1) new research fields as well as (2) to introduce us to non-academic career paths. Presenters from companies such as Virbac and Elanco, whom I had never heard of prior, told many of us that “postdocs are not the canonical path for PhD graduates” – and this is where my drive to explore my options further had greatly stemmed from. With my intention to complete my PhD in mid-late 2021, I am expanding my horizons and seeing what a career in industry might have in tow for me.

You can find Miguel on: