“Never forget that life is already happening, right now!”
Dr Audra Shadforth is a postdoctoral scientist at the Queensland Eye Institute.
Tell us a little about yourself, i.e. how did you become interested in science?
I have always known that science was going to be my path. I can remember walking to the corner store as a child, examining my arm trying to imagine I could see the millions of cells that make up my body. I was raised in a home that loved knowledge and I was surrounded by books on all kinds of topics. I had an encyclopaedia, and many reference books to study, and there was always a documentary about the world around us on the television. The local library was my own private oasis, and I really enjoyed school. This environment fostered my scientific mind to find the answers to my many questions.
What was your path to your PhD?
If you had of told me at the end of high school that I would earn a PhD within the next decade I would have laughed. No way! I was just going to be a normal scientist, not a “special” one. I was the first person in my family to attend university so that was big enough! I enjoyed my undergraduate experience immensely and still meet up with my girlfriends regularly (four of us are Doctors and one is an Occupational Therapist in London!). I graduated with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biomedical Science, and unfortunately not much else – I was to join the workforce right smack bang in the middle of the Global Financial Crisis. The following 6 months were filled with an administration job and many rejection letters. I had even started another degree – anything to find my feet. One seemingly ordinary day visiting my optometrist has brought me many blessings. I started at the Queensland Eye Institute in July 2009 and I have loved every moment since. After a couple of years as a Research Assistant an opportunity arose to explore a Masters Project. This developed into a PhD project and I am now a postdoctoral scientist at QEI. Living the dream!
What drives you and what do you enjoy about your current position?
I really enjoy designing and brainstorming the theoretical framework of a project idea. This is especially important in medical research because we want to develop treatments that will actually work inside our patients. If the idea is amazing and exciting but it won’t translate well as a viable treatment, then that idea needs to be shelved. I really enjoy gathering the knowledge to make those decisions. I also enjoy the methodical and careful skill required for designing and setting up experiments. I would say I am a cell biologist by trade and 10 year old me is rapt that I don’t have to imagine what they look like anymore!
What is the achievement you are the most proud of?
The personal and professional achievements I am most proud of are linked. In the last year of my PhD I was pregnant with my first child. I presented my Final Seminar and wrote my thesis while growing a human. I graduated a month before I gave birth and it was an exhilarating and joyful time. Surprisingly, my PhD gave me a fantastic skill set for caring for a newborn – persistence, perseverance, and problem solving….not to mention the limited sleep!
What has been the most important advice you were ever given?
“Take every opportunity! Say yes and see where it takes you”. This advice has worked well for my career so far. I make sure to think it over, but if I can say yes, I will. It also means when I need to say no, there is no regret.
What would you like to tell your younger self?
I know it feels like it now, but there really isn’t *one big decision* that sets you on your career path. There are many seemingly small decisions and opportunities that present themselves along the way and you’ll know the answers when they appear. Do what you enjoy, explore things that interest you, and never forget that life is already happening, right now!
Is there a saying you hold as a life motto?
I really identify with this quote, if I feel hesitant it gives me a good push in the right direction.
“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.” – Hugh Laurie