Everyone approaches problem solving differently and to advance our knowledge we need a wide variety of perspectives to think of solutions and beneficial applications that others have not come up with yet
Dr Alena Pribyl is the Senior Scientist with Australian gut microbiome analysis experts Microba, yet her journey started a fair way from the study of gut bacteria! Dr Pribyl received a Bachelor of Science, in Biology with Honours in 1999 and went on to study a Masters in Biology, focusing on nitrogen cycling in polluted rivers. After her Master’s, she worked as a fisheries biologist for two years before returning to school for a PhD in Fisheries Science with a focus on the stress response. Fisheries is where her career journey began.
Dr Pribyl got into STEM as she was “always interested in how the natural world worked, and throughout school enjoyed classes such as Biology and Maths,” she said.
After witnessing a presentation in high school from a leading female marine biologist, she was convinced that she wanted to pursue a college degree in Biology. Following her studies, she went on to work as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in Fisheries, a Science Policy Fellow with the California Council on Science and Technology and then in 2015, as Laboratory Manager at the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics (ACE) within The University of Queensland.
She was introduced to the idea of Microba while working at ACE, and became a foundational staff member, working with the team from incubation to early stage company. Dr Pribyl currently oversees the Science Team at Microba, is one of their key researchers and presenters, develops and writes technical and non-technical science content about the gut microbiome for a variety of uses from blogs and public relations to marketing collateral, reports, grant applications and presentations. She shared that her key goal is to “accurately inform people about the exciting research happening in this space.”
When asked about the big picture goal in her current role, she explained that Microba’s main vision is to advance understanding of how the gut microbiome interacts with the human body to improve healthcare.
“I am part of an amazing team at biotech company Microba, where our goal is to improve our understanding of how the gut microbiome impacts human health and to use our findings to develop microbiome-based diagnostics and therapeutics to improve healthcare,” she said.
“I enjoy my work at Microba because it is meaningful and I hope it will help improve lives. I translate the latest scientific research about the gut microbiome, including how the substances produced by our gut bacteria interact with our immune, metabolic and nervous systems, for inclusion in our microbiome reports and in educational content.
“This can help people to understand just how important our gut microbiome is to our health, and the need to eat a healthy diet to ensure it is functioning at its best.
“The gut microbiome field has a huge potential to help prevent, diagnose and treat numerous health conditions, and Microba is developing and applying the cutting-edge tools needed for this field to realise its potential. It is a great team to be a part of.”
Dr Pribyl encourages more women to enter into STEM roles, emphasising that there are skills and knowledge gained in any STEM degree that are widely applicable to other areas, making it easier to switch to different fields.
She said that research skills, the ability to critically assess data, writing skills, critical thinking, attention to detail and perseverance are excellent foundations for a young person.
“Everyone approaches problem solving differently and to advance our knowledge we need a wide variety of perspectives to think of solutions and beneficial applications that others have not come up with yet,” she said.
She encourages anyone interested in STEM careers or study to:
- Gain a strong foundation in the core subjects of your field of interest, such as Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics etc.
- Seek out hands-on opportunities to see what it’s like to work in your area of interest.
- Find a mentor in your field of interest who you can learn from.
Dr Pribyl’s biggest lesson learned throughout her career journey has been that “it’s important to have passion for your research or work.”
You can read more about Dr Pribyl’s current research at on the Microba blog.
LinkedIn: Alena Pribyl