Disease fighter goes to the people

Dr Danielle Stanisic attended the NYSF in 1993, and went on to study at the University of Queensland.  Today, she works as a medical researcher at Griffith University, trying to outfox malaria.

Dr Danielle Stanisic

Dr Danielle Stanisic

“You have got to admire the malaria parasite, says Dr Danielle Stanisic. “It’s just so clever.”

Danielle has dedicated herself to researching a vaccine against the disease and she is the first to admit she is up against a wily foe.

“It can evade the immune system, it can modify the host immune system so that it doesn’t target the parasite, it changes the immune cells, it can hide in the immune cells – it’s developed all these ways to get around the immune system so it can stay in the human body.”

It is not just the malaria parasite that has Danielle fascinated. She grew up around science – her father was a scientist who worked on snails – so her interest in science began at an early age. However, her passion took off when she attended the National Youth Science Forum, which included a tour of the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra.

“We were interacting with laboratory heads who introduced us to the research they were doing and gave us some hands-on work,” Danielle says. “It was fantastic, and it made me start thinking about medical research as a career.”

While studying parasitology at the University of Queensland, she heard a guest speaker talk about malaria vaccines and decided that was her calling.

Danielle is now a fully-fledged malaria vaccine researcher, based at Griffith University. Her work has also taken her to malaria-afflicted areas of Papua New Guinea, which she describes as a career highlight.

“Unless you actually go to where you see people who have the disease that you’re working on, you don’t truly appreciate why you’re doing the work,” she says.

www.uq.edu.au; www.griffith.edu.au/science-aviation/institute-glycomics;

This story was first published in Australia’s Future, a publication promoting science, technology, engineering and maths careers.  To read other stories, go to www.australiasfuture.com


From the Chair

Autumn has arrived in Canberra, reminding us how much of the year is gone already. The leaves are changing colour and we are turning our attention to next year’s Sessions.

Applications for 2015 opened on 1 April and students have been making enquiries. This emphasises the important role that the Rotary partnership plays and how effective Rotary members’ involvement is in not only the vital role of selecting students to attend Sessions in January, but increasing awareness about the program. Thank you once again Rotary!

We are also having a hard look at the strategic direction of the NYSF. At a time when there is increasing focus on whether our economy will have enough STEM professionals in the future, programs such as the NYSF are even more relevant because they provide exposure for young people to a wide range of science and technology-related fields, and also a greater understanding of the increasing points of intersection among various disciplines. How well we are achieving this needs to be constantly considered.

And on the topic of intersections, along with several members of the office staff and Council, I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of a great collaborative project – Australia’s Future. The magazine profiles individual success stories in STEM areas across Australia and was led by the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) and funded by the Office of the Chief Scientist for Australia, but also had the support of the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, the Australian Mathematics Trust, Australian Science Innovations, the CSIRO, the National Mathematics Summer School and of course the National Youth Science Forum.

You can view the magazine online at: http://australiasfuture.com/

Craig Cormick