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Q&A- Rebecca Poulos

Q&A- Rebecca Poulos

Meet Rebecca Poulos who is a Data Scientist in the Cancer Data Science Team.

What got you interested in science? 

When I was a kid, I became hooked on astronomy after reading a picture book called “1001 facts about Space”. I had my own telescope and did work experience at the “Dish” in Parkes. When I was choosing university courses, the biology subjects looked most interesting to me, so I chose to study Biotechnology.

What is your current role at CMRI and what does it involve?

I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Cancer Data Science group at CMRI. I don’t do lab work anymore but instead use coding (Python) to analyse DNA and protein cancer datasets that are generated at CMRI and elsewhere around the world. I analyse these data to try and find trends and patterns that describe biological features of cancer and how patients might respond to cancer treatments.

What study path did you take to get here?

When I finished school, I did a double degree in Business (Accounting) and Science (Biotechnology) at UTS. I then did Honours and a PhD at UNSW in the Faculty of Medicine. In these research projects, I learnt bioinformatics to study the genomics of cancer, mostly using publicly available ‘big data’.

Was there anything 'unconventional' about the approach you took?

I wanted to be an accountant when I left school, so I started a Bachelor of Business and worked full time as an auditor in a large accounting firm. After a couple of years, I decided that I missed science, so I converted to a double degree. I loved studying science and found genetics to be the most interesting topic. This led me into my cancer research career.

Anything you'd like to say to inspire the next generation of scientists?

Science is a fascinating career that allows you to discover exciting things about the world for a living. It can be a difficult path that requires a lot of time investment, but it is also very flexible and favours those who are self-driven. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of research, and what incredibly rewarding work it can be.

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