The many pathways to higher degree research

22 June 2018
Researchers producing great outcomes through alternative pathways to study

3 higher degree researchers share their stories of how they balance their research with their careers and personal lives.

Brenda Maria Rosales

PhD candidate

Brenda is in her first year of her PhD investigating ways to improve long-term outcomes in transplant recipients. In her undergraduate study, Brenda developed an interest in the social aspects of health and completed a Science Honours at the University of Sydney.

With a passion for immunology, Brenda travelled overseas and completed a Master of Public Health part-time before returning to Sydney to work with Professor Angela Webster on her PhD. Brenda is investigating immune cells in transplant recipients and whether their activity in the first-year post-transplant could alert to a higher risk of rejection or complications (infection or cancer) in the future.

Brenda has come to learn that you don’t need to be top of the class or follow a traditional path to get into research. She uses her project management skills to succeed in her research and has received two prestigious awards: International Young Scientific Investigator award from The Transplant Society; and formal national recognition as an early career researcher from the Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand.

Karen Waller


Karen is a full-time junior doctor and basic physician trainee at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and is also completing a Master of Philosophy by research part-time. Her research is looking at blood borne viruses in solid organ transplantation, specifically whether there are some donor referrals who have been previously rejected who may be suitable in the setting of new tests and treatments.

This year, Karen has been sitting specialty exams while continuing to work full-time. She notes that it can be tough to find the right balance, especially since her work requires rural rotations and shift work. Karen recommends setting reasonable expectations of output and regular meetings with your supervisor. Having things to aim for, like conference presentations, helps her keep momentum.

Completing a Summer Research Scholarship in her final year of medical school inspired Karen to continue her project into a Masters. She aims to pass her exams this year, then convert her Masters into a PhD and study full-time in 2019. She sees the value of her research and wants to translate it into real clinical outcomes in the future, Karen says "treating patients at an individual level is satisfying, but clinical research to me means being able to impact patients at a higher level."

Martin Hua

PhD candidate

Martin is a junior medical officer and PhD candidate who is over half way through his research on the use of evidence in health policy. While completing his medical degree, he undertook a Summer Research Scholarship and enjoyed his research so enrolled into a part-time Master of Philosophy, which he later converted to a PhD.

Martin is based out of Baradine, a rural town 2 hours north of Dubbo, and is completing his research remotely. He acknowledges the challenges of studying part-time as there are no strict timelines. He overcomes this by utilising periods of inspiration to make progress on his research and later edits his work when he is feeling less stimulated. Accepting the natural ebb and flow of a PhD is key to Martin’s workflow.

Martin will finish his PhD in 2020 and aspires to follow in the footsteps of well renowned academics like Professor Andrew Wilson.


Be stubborn about your goals, but flexible about your journey.
Brenda Maria Rosales

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