Professor Maree Teesson AC is an international authority in mental and substance use disorders, two of the most prevalent and burdensome health conditions in developed countries.
She joined the University of Sydney last year and launched the Matilda Centre, a world first translational research program for the prevention and treatment of comorbid mental health and substance abuse. Her team’s research is at the forefront of prevention and treatment of mental and substance use disorders, having led to numerous ‘firsts’ in the field.
The first in her extended family to attend university, Professor Teesson knows the value of a supportive network.
“It is not easy balancing a full-on academic career and family, and I have been very lucky in terms of individual support throughout my career,” she says.
“But I also recognised early on that there was little formal, structural support for young researchers, including young women and those with children. In my team and in medical research in general, I am always looking for ways to deliberately address this deficit.”
Professor Teesson won the 2014 Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers. She works to ensure junior researchers are fully credited for their work, including placing them first on published papers – even when this means taking risks with her own career along the way.
“Placing the names of junior staff high on published work and encouraging their autonomy can be risky in science,” she says. “It’s not traditional to build a community of researchers and there is the possibility that I would not get grants or fellowships or promotions because people wouldn’t recognise me as the leader.”
“With complex challenges like mental disorders and addiction we need a community of researchers to drive the innovation.”
Flexible work arrangements are available to staff, and the money and infrastructure that enter the centre filter through to researchers from top to bottom.