Fern began her research journey as an international student completing a Bachelor of Biomedicine with Honors at the University of Melbourne. Her Honours project was in the HITRL laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
“Honours was really tough – but very rewarding and I came out knowing that I wanted to do research,” says Fern.
Undertaking a PhD in Immunology with Professor Dale Godfrey in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology based at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Fern’s research focused on investigating the development and function of unconventional T cells.
“The typical research trajectory used to involve taking a postdoctoral position overseas but this is changing. Technology and social media means knowledge sharing is much faster. Publishing is using preprint services and sharing of tools via technology. COVID-19 has accelerated this," she says.
Working within the Biomedical Precinct at Parkville you have access to world class training, research and experts – so you don’t need to go anywhere else.
In recognition of her work on identifying, characterising and mapping thymic development of a subset of T cells called MAIT cells, Fern received the Department of Microbiology and Immunology’s QIAGEN Award, the Zoetis PhD Oration award, and the Victorian Premier’s Award for Health and Medical Research (Basic Science).
More recently Fern secured the Peter Doherty Early Career Fellowship from the NHMRC to continue her research into the fundamental immunology of unconventional T cells.
Fern’s advice to future students: "Remember to check in and recalibrate – internally with yourself and externally with your contacts and mentors. Are you happy with your research trajectory? Are you happy with your career path? Think about the transferable skills you can get from doing a PhD."