Jasmina Paluncic, PhD student and IMNIS Mentee in the 2017 MedTech-Pharma program – The University of Sydney, Pathology laboratory (NSW) [Image: Lionel Leck]

“I believe [IMNIS] is extremely helpful and beneficial for students especially those who wish to work in industry. [The program] is very rewarding and I would highly encourage more students to take part…”

My name is Jasmina Paluncic and I am an international PhD candidate performing cancer research at the University of Sydney. Recently, I have started my mentorship at the New South Wales IMNIS MedTech-Pharma program. My journey in scientific research began with the completion of my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Chemistry in Germany before coming to Australia to finish my Master’s thesis with the investigation of malignant melanoma, which I have decided to stay and continue for my current PhD project.

I can truly say that this project has changed me in a very positive way. Knowing that each result I receive may contribute to finding the right treatment for people battling this aggressive disease became one of my fundamental motivations. During my time in the laboratory, I have managed to produce and collect many significant data, and uncover crucial molecular pathways that are integral for the development of highly lethal melanoma tumours. I have intensively applied myself to this project have given major intellectual input into the analysis of results, and in developing future directions for this exciting investigation. I have also had five abstracts accepted for conference presentation, but the biggest milestone for me so far was being invited to give an oral presentation of my work at an international conference in Cyprus last year. Moreover, I was also invited to Co-Chair a session at this conference, which is exceedingly rare for a student of my career stage.

There is still much that we do not know about cancer and it is a disease of constant change and discovery. I strongly believe that one of the major keys to fighting cancer is by understanding its progression and adaptation to the environment. I believe that my PhD project is just the beginning of a much greater path in cancer research, and I am passionate to see how it will benefit cancer patients in the future.

Why are you participating in the IMNIS program?Why are you participating in the IMNIS program?

Being a PhD student in academia, I have limited opportunities to meet people from industry and to understand how industry works. Most conferences that I have attended are rather academically focused. My goal has always been to enter the industry, especially in the area of R&D, after the completion of my PhD. Hence, it is crucial for me to gain insight into how industry functions and what the main differences are between academia and industry. IMNIS is the perfect opportunity and I am extremely grateful for being part of this program.

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

I am honored to have a mentor who is very dedicated to this mentoring program and who is willing to mentor me as much as possible throughout this journey. My mentor is very experienced and is highly respected in his field, nationally as well as internationally, providing me with many networking opportunities with greater insight in this area. I value all the different aspects he has already shown me in a very short period of time such as, participating in general meetings, exploring his laboratories, collaborator meetings, invitations to conferences and many more. 

What do you hope your mentor can help you achieve and what is the best piece of advice you have received so far?

My mentor has shown me, that it is possible to combine my passion to research in an industrial environment. But most importantly, I have learnt that besides dedication and discipline, networking and connections are critical to succeed in businesses and my mentor has provided me some essential and fundamental tools to achieve this. He demonstrated what it means to be a leader in your own company and the responsibilities that comes with leadership. 

What are the top 3 key things you hope to learn through the IMNIS program?

I believe the main difference between academia and industry is time management. Doing a PhD gives us a time frame of 4 years to work on a single project, while in industry you do not have this “luxury”. I hope my mentor can help me:

  • Bridge the academia/ industry gap and understand how to transition from my PhD to the industry workforce
  • How to work efficiently and meeting with tight datelines whilst improving time management in an industrial setting
  • More importantly, I wish to improve my strengths and learn from my weaknesses so that I can be more competitive in industry later on when I complete my PhD

What has been the most rewarding aspect of the IMNIS program for you so far?

The most rewarding aspect for me is being able to get a better understanding of how to work and present yourself in the industry, especially how to work with others and deal with industrial businesses. This gives me essential knowledge to improve my skills in these aspects of industry. In addition, this program offers me the chance to network with other professionals and this really opens up more opportunities for me to join industry in the future. I believe the IMNIS program is extremely helpful and beneficial for students especially those who wish to work in industry. This is very rewarding and I would highly encourage more students to take part in this program.