“The Harvard Gender bias test is a good test for all and being pro-active on gender equity policies”
Professor Ala Tabor joined a new Institute at The University of Queensland, the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) in 2010, after 18 years of research with the Queensland Government. Her vision is to lead translational research to continually improve the management of bovine diseases globally.
Ala’s research interests are associated with the application of genomics to improve animal disease management through: 1) the development of molecular diagnostic and genotyping methods to better identify pathogens; and 2) the study of gene function in relation to virulence and host pathogenicity of infectious diseases, to develop new effective vaccines.
Areas studied to date include bovine reproductive diseases, Australian paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus), cattle tick (Rhipicephalus microplus), and tick-borne diseases (babesiosis and anaplasmosis). Some key outputs of Ala’s work include the application of reverse vaccinology for the development of a novel cattle tick vaccine and also sensitive diagnostic tools for bovine reproductive diseases – either commercialised or ‘under commercial development’.
In the last 10 years, Prof. Tabor has led successful applications valued ~$5.7 million in competitive grants. Her current research includes paralysis tick control, cattle tick vaccine ‘proof of concept’ trials, bioinformatics/genomics of ticks and bovine venereal Campylobacter spp, tick fever genotyping, and diagnostic assay development for bovine genital campylobacteriosis. She is currently the Chair for the International 9th Tick and Tick-borne Pathogen conference to be held in Australia for the first time in 2017.
Prof. Tabor has international recognition in her field of research and in 2015 joined the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Funded international cattle tick vaccine consortium ‘CATVAC’ (QAAFI/UQ is one of 11 Institutions world-wide invited). On a personal note, Ala is a single mother of two daughters. She is the primary carer of an adult daughter on the autism spectrum. Proudly, her other daughter is studying an undergraduate Science Degree at UQ.
What is the one thing you would change to improve the gender balance in senior ranks of scientists?
Building awareness seems to be an issue and a society which appears to have accepted males as leaders and females as the care-givers. The Harvard Gender bias test is a good test for all and being pro-active on gender equity policies.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to women just starting their careers in science ?
Find a very supportive and gender ‘unbiased’ partner.
What has been the biggest barrier you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it ?
Probably being a woman was the biggest barrier. I was lucky to have a female PhD advisor (early 1990s) which helped build my confidence. As a post-doctoral researcher in an organisation led by men it was not easy to gain support for maternity leave and flexible working options. I continued working with short breaks and adapted by working from home. Essentially I have worked hard and long hours.
What do you think is the most important character trait in a successful scientist ?
What would you say is your most valuable personal attribute that has helped you succeed ?