Discoveries need dollars and why I care

Before I was even born, a medical geneticist named Athel Hockey was involved in my life. I’m not going to go into details, but it’s fair to say that medical research is part of why I am here today.

When I was 20 years old and still an undergraduate science student, I won a prize named after Dr Hockey: the Athel Hockey Prize in Medical Genetics. To this day, I quite like that she was involved at the beginning of my life, and at the beginning of my life as a researcher.

I chose not to continue in genetics, because although I enjoyed studying the science behind genetics, on a day-to-day basis physics was what I really loved. I was fortunate because I chose to do my PhD with a research group that has quite an extensive interest in the use of physics/magnetism for biomedical and medical applications. My own PhD project began with the aim of using magnetic fluids to treat retinal detachment. As is the way with science, I ended up getting sidetracked with my research, and, as my supervisor put it “started out doing research that could help a lot of people, and ended up discovering a new physical phenomenon.”

After completing my PhD, I worked as a half-time research associate (with the same group) for 6 months, while taking on as many casual teaching responsibilities as I could so I could afford to pay rent and eat food. It was during that 6 months that I made one of the more difficult choices in my life: to leave research. I still loved the science, but I was hit with the realisation that I wasn’t cut out for a life of job insecurity (if I could find a job at all).

Which brings me to the point of this post: Discoveries Need Dollars. If more dollars are available for medical research, more scientists can be employed and more medical discoveries can be made. This is why I care about reports that there could be a cut of $400 million to the National Health and Medical Research Council in the upcoming federal budget. Check out the Discoveries Need Dollars site for more news and links, and if you’re free and from Perth, Brisbane or Darwin, come to a rally later this week (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra have already hosted rallies). Here’s hoping the government listens, because medical research doesn’t just benefit scientists, it benefits everyone.

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4 Responses to Discoveries need dollars and why I care

  1. Captain Old says:

    Bogurk’s post is brief, and makes a powerful point. Beyond what Bogurk has said, I’d like to point out that research has the power not only to produce discoveries that have the potential to for significant benefits to mankind, but also, along the way, give people suffering various conditions enormous hope. It can lighten their lives, and help them to stay positive while enduring their difficulties. If you want an example of this, just have a look at the comment at the foot of this article about some of the research Bogurk was doing during her Phd: http://bit.ly/fvNoDT .
    Cutting research funding can have a very wide range of adverse effects – so get out there and give the Government a strong message that cutting research funding would be a very poor decision. We can’t be the Smart Country if we make dumb decisions.

    • bogurk says:

      That is certainly an interesting comment in the context of the hope medical research can bring non-researchers. It is very humbling to be described in such glowing terms, too. The only downside is that it’s bringing back my guilt about leaving research. Perhaps I could get a sign made: “Will research for food.”

      • Jason says:

        There is no guilt in refusing to work for free, which is what many scientists end up doing at some point. Working for nothing creates problems of its own, which undermine the relevance (perceived and actual) of higher education and research. I intend to write about this soon, but I need to wait for certain events to conclude (mysterious, eh?).

        It is up to the Australian government to fund research adequately, rather than exploit altruistic researchers.

  2. Pingback: Heroes, sportspeople and scientists | Misc and Other

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