Sarah, 2020–21

Headshot of Sarah


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

My research background is in protein biochemistry. I used various structural biology techniques to study how proteins from pathogens like bacteria and viruses interact with each other and with human proteins. Characterising these interactions is important in the development of new drugs and in enhancing our understanding of how pathogens work to fight our immune system.

What policy area are you working on through the Science Policy Fellowship Program?

I’m working in the Department of Finance, as part of the Industry, Innovation and Science Agency Advice Unit. We provide policy and financial advice on a range of programs within the Industry, Science, Energy and Resources portfolio.

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

Research skills and the capacity to pick up new things quickly have been immediately useful, as well as the ability to communicate complex ideas succinctly. Scientific research is often about asking the right questions and it seems that is very important in policy development too. I also think the resilience gained from the highs and lows of academia has been quite valuable in navigating the quickly shifting priorities that come with working with Government.

How has the program changed your career aspirations?

The program has reinforced that scientific research skills are useful and appreciated across many sectors. I had known for quite a while that I wanted a change from research in an academic setting and it’s really exciting to see what a career in policy might look like.

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

So far I am very much enjoying learning how various government processes operate, the role the public service has in decision making and what it means to work in government. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I was ready for new challenges and it has been refreshing to become absorbed in something completely different!