Clancy Behind COVID-19 Research

We recently sat down with ClancyRose Higgins (Class of 2016), who is now a Research Officer at the Australian National Phenome Centre and doing some incredible work. Clancy absolutely loves what she does and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. If you’ve ever considered working in the medical field, you’ll definitely want to read this one! 

What inspired you to pursue a career in scientific research?

I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field as I always had an interest in Human Biology and Sciences. When our university preferences were due in Year 12, I considered Biomedical Science as an area of study. The first time I heard of this degree was at an Achievers’ Assembly when I was still in school, and I thought it sounded exciting, so I put it down as one of my preferences.

What area of research are you involved in at the Australian National Phenome Centre?

The Australian National Phenome Centre has several ongoing projects in COVID-19 research, Alzheimer’s and Healthy Ageing studies, and Food Security and Safety research. I am currently working on COVID-19 samples, focussing on finding diagnostic biomarkers for long COVID and identifying unique molecular patterns that could be responsible for symptoms of long COVID.

What is the most exciting project you have worked on so far in your career?

Every project I work on seems to excite me differently, as new concepts are constantly explored and studied, so I tend to get excited about whatever I am working on. However, in my previous role at The Busselton Population Medical Research Centre, we were the only research facility in Australia studying inflammatory markers in sputum, as Western Australia was the only state without COVID cases at the time in 2020. This was extremely exciting as in the medical research field, it is almost a race between research facilities to make discoveries and publish their findings first, so having that head start was exciting.

What is your typical day like as a research scientist?

Depending on the projects running, each day can look quite different. Some days consist of sample preparation, which is a lot of manual preparation of bloods or urine for analysis via mass spectrometry or nuclear magnetic resonance. Other days involve system checks of instruments to ensure that the data we collect in the following days is valid and reliable. Most of the day is spent in the laboratory, which fortunately has a great view over Fiona Stanley Hospital.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your field?

Fortunately, the Australian National Phenome Centre is known globally for the cutting-edge technology that we home here in Murdoch. Therefore we often host academics from around the world to provide seminars on the latest scientific methods and research styles. I am also completing my Masters of Medical Science at Charles Sturt University, which enables me to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in medical research.

Did you always know you wanted to be a scientist?

I honestly didn’t know enough about medical research when deciding on my career path. Growing up and throughout school I thought I wanted to be a doctor or a nurse because I knew I always wanted to work in a hospital or the medical setting. Then, once the opportunity for me to study Biomedical Science presented itself, I knew it was the career for me. Since then, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Were there any programs or staff at the College that have impacted your life post-SMC?

My whole experience at Santa Maria has significantly impacted my life post-school. Once I left the shelter of SMC and the bubble, I realised how lucky I was to have gained that kind of education. The transition to university is always a big change. Still, the feeling of not knowing your peers in the lecture rooms or having to put your student number and full name in the subject of your email when emailing a lecturer was what made me realise that the community at SMC was so unique and was so focussed on allowing us to get the best possible education we could out of the College, which has impacted my life in a great way.

Do you have any favourite memories from your time at Santa Maria?

I don’t have one favourite memory, but I see the whole experience as a good time!

Thank you for sharing your insight with us, Clancy! We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours. 

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