Rubaiyea Farrukee, mentee in the 2017 MedTech-Pharma program (Monash University) in VIC [Image: Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity]

“…every PhD student needs an opportunity to learn about the many options they have outside of academia…”

I completed my Bachelor of Science (Biotechnology) (Honours) at Monash University in 2013. Between 2013-2015 I worked as a Formulation and Quality Control chemist at a manufacturing laboratory for personal care products and in 2016 started my PhD at the World Health Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research in Influenza laboratory, with University of Melbourne. My project explores the multi-faceted aspects of antiviral resistance in influenza, including studying how resistance arises, how it affects the fitness of influenza viruses and what kind of risk there is of resistance becoming widespread. I am currently working casually as a formulation chemist at my previous job and in 2017 I participated in the IMNIS program, under the mentorship of Dr. Bill Pickering.

“…participating in the IMNIS program felt like a natural next step for me to achieve my goals.”

Why did you participate in the IMNIS program?

My first job in the personal care industry was very different from anything I had done before and it was eye-opening. I enjoyed the job thoroughly but wanted to gain experience in either a biotechnology or medicinal science-based industry. Starting the PhD was the first step for me to learn more about translational research and participating in the IMNIS program felt like a natural next step for me to achieve my goals.

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 would meet my mentor on an average of one and half months. We would set an agenda for our next meeting at the end of each session and I spent the time between sessions researching questions about the different aspects of the industry I wanted to know more about. I was very interested in learning how the steps from a novel idea research to a final product was navigated, which my mentor helped me get a great understanding of. The best piece of advice I received from him was to not fret too much over the little things and keep focus on the big picture. The most important aspect of my relationship with him was the guidance and support I received from him in not only industry-related questions but also PhD-related ones.

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

I would definitely recommend the IMNIS program to any of my fellow peers. I strongly believe that every PhD student needs an opportunity to learn about the many options they have outside of academia, as many are not aware of it.

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

The most rewarding aspect for me was the network I was able to build with other people within the industry due to my mentor’s introduction. I would not have known who to speak to with or even where to start without his guidance. Another rewarding aspect of this program was the network I have been able to build with my fellow IMNIS mentees, who are all driven and talented individuals, and with whom I feel honoured to have connected with.

Did IMNIS help you get to where you are now?

I am still completing my PhD, but I have full confidence that the IMNIS program will play an instrumental role in my future endeavours and the benefits of this program will be felt in many years to come.