STEMM PROFILE: Dr Laura McCaughey | Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Research Fellow | University Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

Dr Laura McCaughey [Image: UTS]

“‘Be the change you want to see’. We are the future of science and we have the ability to change the culture and equality in our workplace by our actions.”

Dr Laura McCaughey is a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Research Fellow working at the ithree institute (infection, immunology and innovation) at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in collaboration with the University of Oxford, UK.

Laura obtained an MSci in Forensic and Analytical Chemistry from the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, in 2010. During this degree Laura undertook a one-year placement at GlaxoSmithKline, Stevenage, UK, where she worked as an analytical chemist and gained insight into the workings of a large pharmaceutical company. She was then awarded a Wellcome trust PhD scholarship at the University of Glasgow where she investigated the use of novel protein antibiotics, termed S-type pyocins, to kill the notoriously difficult-to-treat, and often multi-drug resistant, bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

In 2014 Laura was awarded a four year Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Research Fellowship straight out of her PhD, which enabled her to establish international collaborations between UTS and the University of Oxford, UK. Laura’s main research questions are ‘How do bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics and how can we identify novel approaches to antibiotic development to overcome this problem?’. Laura is already making her work in Australia known, having recently been awarded two national prizes for her research: Sydney Protein Group Thompson Prize and the Lorne Conference on Protein Structure and Function Young Investigators Prize.

During her PhD Laura was actively involved in highlighting the problem of antibiotic resistance, and the interventions necessary to prevent the problem escalating further, to the public. She achieved this through a number of public lectures and Q&A events, such as Universities Week at the Natural History Museum, UK. Laura is continuing this public engagement in Australia through participation in the Sydney Science Festival and radio interviews on 2SER.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to women just starting their careers in science?

This is our time to shine. Let’s take this opportunity and prove that women are just as great at science as men. Also, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t achieve your goals. “Shoot for the moon”.

How can we best support the next generation of women scientists?

By having more senior female role models in academia that can mentor and encourage our young female scientists.

What advice would you give early career researchers in science today?

“Be the change you want to see”. We are the future of science and we have the ability to change the culture and equality in our workplace by our actions.

What is it about you that got you to where you are today?

My PhD supervisor wrote in my fellowship reference ‘The key to Laura’s success has been her single minded determination to achieve her goals’ and I agree fully with him. I inherited my mother’s stubbornness and this has translated into resilience and a strong work ethic for my research.

What are you most proud of in your science career?

My greatest achievement to date has to be the work/life balance I have maintained through my career. I have a very successful track record and a wonderful husband/home life. I do believe that by working smarter, not harder, we can create a scientific work culture that promotes work/life balance.

Twitter: @LauraCMcCaughey

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