Dr Jacob Coffey
Research Officer, Department of Microbiology & Immunology
What does your research focus on and why is it important?
I develop better ways to deliver drugs and vaccines to make them more convenient, more potent, more cost effective, longer lasting and/or able to dose multiple times after a single administration. This combines physics, chemistry and materials science with biology to treat disease. It allows me to work across all of the fields I enjoyed studying at school as well as help cure disease, instead of just specialising in one. I have worked in a team that was aiming to replace the needle with a painless skin patch for vaccination and also for one of the founders of the SARS-CoV-2 corona virus vaccine.
Did you have a part-time job whilst at school/studying?
I was the best pizza delivery driver for at least two or three suburbs.
What did you learn from your biggest mistake?
Being smart and achieving well in school or university is definitely important to open doors. But it’s not a be all and end all. Just being smart in medical research or academia is not enough. You need to get things done with your hands most of the time and put theory into practice. I’ve seen very smart people drop out of the field because they spend all their time thinking about what could be done but never get around to executing it. And I’ve seen people who weren’t the highest achievers in school do well in research because they are good in the lab or because they developed critical thinking / problem solving skills later in life. These skills aren’t really taught in school or even university, but are learnt during a PhD or on the job. Do not rest on your laurels because you are good at tests and do not feel unfazed if you feel you could be better. There is a lot more to being good at the job and there are many pathways to succeed. Look forward to developing these additional skills as you move through you education and training as it’s a big part of what makes the job interesting.