Noor Suaini, IMNIS mentee in the 2017 MedTech-Pharma program in VIC (University of Melbourne)

“Without a doubt, IMNIS and my mentor, have played a huge role in contributing to where I am now.”

I am a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne and I am based at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI).

My PhD project seeks to explore specific genetic and environmental risk factors for food allergy in children with Asian background. I investigated whether the predisposition to food allergy in children of Asian-born parents increases the risk of developing other allergies in early childhood. I also compared risk factors for food allergy in Asian population from two countries – Australia and Singapore. Additionally, I examined genetic variants associated with the risk of food allergy in this population.

I have been involved in several research projects and science competitions since high school and these opportunities ignited my interest in research. I first move to Melbourne in 2009 to undertake my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Pharmacology. I pursued an honours research project thereafter at MCRI looking at the association between vitamin D and food allergy. Needing a break from studying, I worked as a research assistant for 2 years before deciding to do my PhD. It was only during my PhD that I was able to pay attention to particular aspects of research that I was interested in and hone my skills in those aspects. In doing so, I tried casual demonstrating at the University and also began considering roles within the industry. I participated in the 2017 IMNIS MedTech-Pharma program in Victoria under the mentorship of Darryl Maher from CSL.

Why did you participate in the IMNIS program?

I participated in the program as I saw it as a great platform to engage with and learn from industry mentors. I was keen to explore options beyond academia but did not have a clue of where or how to begin. I was also unsure on how I could translate some of the skills and knowledge obtained through my PhD to industry. Joining the program would help increase my awareness on industry through networking opportunities with fellow mentees and other mentors.

How often did you meet with your mentor and did you prepare for these meetings? What was the best piece of advice you received? What was the most important aspect of this professional relationship for you?

I met with my mentor at least once a month. It was often just a casual informal session where my mentor would mostly help clarify my misunderstanding or ambiguity of what the industry is about. He would also help look through my CV and offer guidance on how best to tailor it to jobs in the industry. Through my mentor, I was also introduced to various channels and associations that I could tap on to gain a deeper insight into the industry.

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

Definitely! I would recommend the program for anyone who’s still questioning or considering opportunities outside academia. For one, it would help mentees understand  industry better and decide if it is an option worth pursuing.

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

The most rewarding aspect of the program was the opportunity to meet with several other people in CSL who are working across the different aspects of drug development. Through the private sharing session where I met up with about 10 people in CSL, I was able to understand and learn in-depth about each role. This helped me identify if there was any particular area within the industry that aligned well with my interests and skills that I could pursue further.

Did IMNIS help you get to where you are now?

Without a doubt, IMNIS and my mentor, have played a huge role in contributing to where I am now. I am currently involved in a clinical research associate training program which I knew about only through the channels and networks suggested by my mentor. His assistance in improving my CV was also vital in helping me gain this first step into the industry.