Mary Bebawy

STEMM Profile: Associate Professor Mary Bebawy | Pharmaceutical Drug Discovery and Cancer | University of Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

11.07.12 Mary Bebawy
Associate Professor Mary Bebawy [Image: UTS]

“In high school… I had the most amazing science teacher who really made science fascinating and I knew that this was what I wanted to do”

Associate Professor Bebawy was awarded her PhD in Pharmacy in 2001 from the Faculty of Pharmacy, USYD. Her current appointment is Director of Postgraduate Research and Innovation and Head of the Laboratory of Cancer Cell Biology and Therapeutics within the Discipline of Pharmacy, Graduate School of Health, UTS.  She is a founding member of UTS’s new Graduate School of Health which was established in 2011. She has an active research portfolio that focuses on understanding the molecular basis of cancer relapse during treatment.

Associate Professor Bebawy is an internationally recognised cancer researcher and pharmaceutical scientist with a background in commercial drug discovery and pre-clinical development. Her team at UTS were the first to discover a new pathway contributing to cancer multidrug resistance and cancer relapse. Her research defines a paradigm shift in the field of cancer cell biology.  As a pioneer of this field Associate Professor Bebawy and her team are at the international forefront of this research.

Associate Professor Bebawy is passionate about supporting women in science and takes an active role in mentoring the next generation of women scientists. On a personal level, she has maintained her academic and research success whilst being the primary carer of two children. She achieved this through hard work, perseverance, resilience, establishing a functional time management schedule, not being afraid to seek the support of extended family or friends and establishing mentoring relationships with senior role models within research and academia.

What are you most proud of in your science career?

I am proud to say that our cancer research is now being translated clinically.

In addition, I am proud of the opportunity science has given me to be an example to my children. Throughout my career, I am consciously reinforcing the important contribution women are making in science and academia. 

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

I LOVE to travel, and Switzerland is one of my favourite places to visit. When on holidays I try to switch off, however, I am a scientist, this is who I am and is an integral part of my life that cannot be separated.  So yes I do work, in some form or another.

What have you learnt during your career to increase your resilience?

Research is quite the fickle friend. There are days when things run smoothly; experiments work, papers get published, grants are awarded- these are our little rewards that keep us going. For the most part however, researchers are dealing with rejection. Early in one’s career this may be difficult to accept but eventually you get to a stage where you see rejection as an opportunity for refinement, for innovation and for improvement. This is resilience.

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

Many people I give credit to my learning. These individuals have contributed to different aspects of my career be it mentoring in the context of management, research, teaching or life in general. The most important advice given to me is simple: ‘very good- keep going’.

What inspired you to science? Have you always liked science? What do you love most about science?

My inspiration was my father, who is now retired but was a scientist himself. I remember vividly as a young child visiting his lab for the first time and being curious about the elaborate glassware on the bench. Till this day, we have long discussions about my research findings. In high school also, I had the most amazing science teacher who really made science fascinating and I knew that this was what I wanted to do.  

I love the unexpected discoveries the most, that lead you along alternative pathways and challenge you to explore new areas that are may be outside your immediate focus and comfort zone. It is really a constant process of learning, searching,” re-searching” and intellectual reinvention.