Graduate profile - Kate Quinlan

Biochemistry and Genetics Graduate

Kate Quinlan

Career path

BSc (Honours) (Advanced) majoring in Biochemistry (School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences) and Genetics (School of Biological Sciences).
Completed PhD in 2006

Currently a post-doctoral scientist in the Institute for Neuromuscular Research at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Career Goal: to set up her own research lab and to be a University teacher both lecturing to undergraduate students and supervising honours and PhD students.

Advice from someone who’s been there: “I recommend choosing the subjects that you enjoy most throughout your university studies so that by the end of your degree you specialise in what you like most… as enjoying what you do is very important! If you are interested in a career in research I recommend trying to get some lab work experience. This is a great way of enhancing your studies as you put your lecture material into practise. Many Sydney University schools offer Talented Student Program (TSP) options where you can work in a lab for a few hours a week throughout the semester. There are also summer scholarships which allow you to work in a lab for 4-6 weeks over the summer break, OR you can simply approach a lab that is working on something that you are interested in and ask whether they would have any work experience or part time/holiday work available. Your options are endless!”

Your current job in a nutshell?

I work as a post-doctoral scientist in the Institute for Neuromuscular Research at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead with Professor Kathryn North, studying how a common human alteration in a muscle gene influences muscle performance and athletic ability. My work involves conducting experiments, discussing research and ideas with my colleagues and performing collaborative experiments with a number of other labs within Sydney. Every year I’m lucky enough to travel to conferences both in Australia and internationally to present my latest research findings and to learn about new advances in research throughout the world.

How did you get there?

I did my BSc (Honours) (Advanced) at the University of Sydney. For my honours year I studied with Professor Merlin Crossley in the School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences. After honours I decided to take a break from study and worked as a research assistant for a year at the University of Cambridge in the UK studying prion protein. I then returned to Australia and Professor Crossley’s lab for my PhD which I completed in 2006.

Where do you hope to go from here?
I actually know exactly where I am going from here! I was recently awarded a 4-year fellowship from the Australian Government that will provide funding for me to go back to Cambridge for two years to work with Professor Roger Pedersen at the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research in the exciting new field of embryonic stem cell research.

Why did you decide to study science/this major/this degree?

When I was trying to decide what degree to apply for at University I was originally interested in Environmental Science. I loved the 4 units of science and 3 units of geography that I did for the HSC and thought that this would be a good way to combine these interests. I was persuaded to choose a less specialised degree so that I had more subject options and this ended up being a very good decision as, although I enjoyed geography throughout my first and second years of my degree, I didn’t know just how much I would enjoy the biological sciences. I find them absolutely fascinating and was glad that my degree was broad so that I could focus on what interested me the most.

How did your study in at Sydney Uni help you to get where you are now?

A degree and PhD are essential requirements for my current position. I find that I am constantly recalling what I learned in my undergraduate degree and applying it to my current research. My PhD studies were also absolutely essential as a PhD teaches you how to be a research scientist whereas an undergraduate degree teaches you the essential background theoretical knowledge allowing you to understand a research topic.