STEMM PROFILE: Roxane Legaie | Lead Clinical Bioinformatician | Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre | Melbourne | VIC

Roxane Legaie [Image: MBP]

“Even without a clear understanding of what “I wanted to be when I grow up”, I was always driven to achieve, to succeed”

As far as I can remember, I was fascinated by genetics. I studied biology at university for a few years but quickly realised that I was not meant to work in a lab. Unaware of the future that was awaiting me, I took a big decision and stepped away from pure biology to enter a whole new world… Bioinformatics. I am now a highly experienced bioinformatician specialized in the development of pipelines for the processing, mining and integration of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) data, with a particular focus on clinical genomics.

Right after obtaining a Masters in Science in 2007, I was offered a position as Bioinformatician at INSERM, a major research centre in my country. I was also given a PhD opportunity, but I turned it down. I had greater plans. Besides my career, my true dream had always been to live in Australia. In 2008, I quit my job in France and got a Research Fellow position in UK where I could further develop my skills and improve my English. Two years later, I decided it was time for the big move to the other side of the world. It wasn’t an easy task; my applications remained unanswered for months. So I decided to make my way there and make it happen.

I have now been working in Australia for over 7 years, and my current position as Lead Clinical Bioinformatician at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Before this I was Senior Bioinformatician at the Monash Bioinformatics Platform (MBP, Monash University) which provided me challenges, responsibilities and achievements. My current focus is on supporting Translational Research and, more specifically, the use of genomics for Personalized Medicine, with the ultimate goal to improve Human health in general.

My passion for capoeira, a Brazilian martial art, has helped me gain confidence both personally and professionally; and I now aim at helping other women find their own. I have become an advocate for gender equity and a strong supporter of women in science, who I believe deserve to be recognized for all the hard work and talent they have brought, and continue to bring, to the exciting field that is science.

Roxane has a passion for capoeira, a Brazilian martial art [Image: Reflexion Photography]
What was the key thing that helped you get to where you are today?

My ambition. Believing in my potential and always reaching for higher & better.

Even without a clear understanding of what “I wanted to be when I grow up”, I was always driven to achieve, to succeed. I followed my interest for genetics and made important (and sometimes difficult) decisions to get my career moving.

Do you have a mentor? What is the most important advice they have given you?

Yes I have a mentor. She is on the Board of a company involved in Health Genetics. The best advice she gave me is that I can do it – no matter what “it” is.

She also helped me see more clearly through the labyrinth of career paths in science and made me realise that I can create my own.

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

Keep informed. Network with (successful) people in your field; find out what opportunities are there and what the challenges are. Once in a while, take a pause and ask yourself where you want to be in 10 years, get an idea of your ideal career path. Then get yourself a mentor and figure out how to get there.

If you could give one piece of advice to the current government what would it be?

My main advice would be to improve systems and structures so that we can retain talented women in the workforce after they had children. Open more childcare centres near universities, increase paternity leave and offer flexible working hours.

Also, develop awareness campaigns and workshops about women self-confidence; how to pursue their careers, how to sell themselves, how to ask for a promotion etc.

What is your ideal holiday – and do you work on your holiday?

I love lying on the beach with a cocktail, savouring a traditional dish in a foreign country and dancing under the stars. I also love the adventure, trekking through the forests, horse riding in the sand dunes, diving coral reefs…

I do not work on holidays. This is my recharging time, to clear my mind and relax completely. And I always come back to work with even more ideas than before!

LinkedIn: Roxane Legaie

Twitter: @RoxaneLegaie

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