STEMM PROFILE: Dr Mercedes Dávalos-Salas, PhD | Postdoctoral Research Fellow | Oncogenic Transcription Laboratory | Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute| School of Cancer Medicine | La Trobe University | Melbourne | VIC


“Set a healthy personal/work balance. Find a mentor and expand your network”

I have always been curious about my environment, about how “things” work. I used to disassemble small radios and watches to see what was inside of them and to try to understand their functioning. Soon I knew that I want to become a scientist.

I obtained a Chemist and Biologist degree followed by Masters and Doctorate in Biochemist at the National University of Mexico (UNAM). My interest in research is to understand the molecular basis of cancer. Why cancer, (when seen as a series of events, and theoretically very improbable to happen all together at the same time), occurs at a certain stage in a cell’s life and transforms it to an aberrant cell. Another complementary interest is to understand how cellular metabolism can relate to the development of cancer.

I came to Australia five years ago to pursue my academic development. Along with my scientific career I have faced challenges requiring me to apply my creativity and problem-solving skills, strengthening my abilities in strategic planning, and coordinating team work.

“Talking to strangers” or better known as networking has positively impacted my personal and professional life. I have realized that having a mentor from the early stages of my career has supported my professional development. Finding a mentor should be encouraged. As a consequence of my experience, I look for opportunities to provide mentorship to younger fellows.

On the personal side, I have been lucky to have an exceptional role model that always inspires me to do better, to aim higher and to never give up: my mother – a single mum, who raised three successful people.

What do you think is the most important character trait in a successful scientist?

Curiosity, focus, strength of mind, assertive, tenacity, resilience, problem-solving through creative pathways. 

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful leader?

Being assertive, being inclusive, being open-minded. Being creative and encouraging creativity in others. Generate a positive impact in their team because this will reattribute the most, both individually and collectively. To encourage surrounding peers to give their better selves.

What is one thing you feel everyone can do to help the position of women in Australian science?

Showing support to women who are already in top roles, will create stable and lasting positions. That might inspire young girls by knowing that they can achieve success and personal and financial stability in their careers.

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

You can achieve whatever is in your mind. Find early what your passion is. Set goals, work hard, and imagine the pathway to get them realized. Be committed, train your self-discipline and be constant/ consistent. Set a healthy personal/work balance. Find a mentor and expand your network.

How can we foster a culture of STEMM innovation?

Promoting inter-professional networking events. Getting together professionals from different areas, giving them the platform to manifest problems-ideas-needs.

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