Dr Helena Chan, 2022–23

Helena Chan

Dr Helena Chan

Helena is a molecular microbiologist interested in unravelling the mechanisms that drive bacterial growth, development and antibiotic resistance. Her research expertise spans molecular biology, biochemistry and high-resolution microscopy, developed throughout her research career in Australia and Japan. She enjoys new challenges and problem solving, and is excited to apply her skills to policy areas within the APS.

What were you researching before you started as a Science Policy Fellow?

I trained as a molecular microbiologist and completed my PhD studying the inheritance of multi-resistance plasmid DNA in Golden Staph. I then did postdoctoral research on bacterial cell division, and more recently, on spore development, using molecular biology, biochemistry and super-resolution microscopy techniques.

How has your research background helped you contribute to policy development?

In my role in policy development, I draw on my research, critical thinking and communication skills that I developed from my research background. Being able to find, extract and analyse information and present it in a clear and logical manner to different audiences has been valuable for the transition from scientific research to policy development. In a policy setting, my research and communication skills are used to influence government processes and decisions to inform evidence-based policy development and address issues facing everyday Australians. (Yes, space policy is relevant to normal people – we all use space every day!)

How has the program changed your career aspirations?

The program has revealed a variety of roles in the APS where my transferrable skills can be applied and valued. For example, the Australian Space Agency carries out policy, program delivery and industry regulation functions, all of which involve skills that are highly developed in Science Policy Fellows. Furthermore, the program not only provides an opportunity to bring scientific skills into the APS, but also to bring policy skills into research and academia. 

What is your favourite part about working in a policy role in the Australian Public Service?

I enjoy the breadth of work that I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to, and the learning opportunities that come along with it. Since working at the Australian Space Agency, I have contributed to drafting and tabling a Government response to a Parliamentary Inquiry, prepared briefings to Ministers and senior executives to support decision making, and contributed to Cabinet processes. To top it off, there is a great sense of collaboration and support from colleagues and managers.