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Meet the researcher: Melinda Dean

Friday 8th Feb 2019

Each year we mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, to recognise the critical role women and girls play in science and technology.

At the Lifeblood our female researchers work at the cutting edge of blood science, helping to shape our future direction and improve health outcomes for Australians.

Associate Professor Melinda Dean from our Research and Development team believes that nurturing and mentoring female researchers and students is important in encouraging full participation in science for women and girls.

Melinda leads a team of researchers who together are trying to understand how receiving a blood transfusion can change the body’s defence system. Recently, along with PhD candidate Alexis Perros, she found that patients who have a transfusion during cardiac surgery are less able to respond to infection and may need to stay longer in intensive care.

“As a result of the tests we have developed, we may be able to predict which patients will need extra care,” Melinda said.

There’s no such thing as a typical day for Melinda. Her work involves developing laboratory tests, investigations using patient samples as well as guiding and mentoring students along the road to becoming independent researchers.  Melinda’s role as a lead scientist also involves communicating the results of her team’s research through writing scientific papers and conference presentations.

“In the lab, we’ve developed tests that help to unravel the details of the body’s response to blood transfusion-essentially a ‘transfusion in a test-tube’” she explains.

“We then translate our findings to help us build our understanding of how patients respond to transfusion, so you’ll sometimes find me running to the hospital to collect samples or talking to clinicians”.

Melinda is passionate about passing on her skills to the next generation of scientists. For her this teaching is not just about the scientific process, but also about passing on a state of mind and an attitude.

Her advice to students is: “To make your science great, you need to focus on building a firm foundation, using the principles of what you’ve learned throughout your degree. Then paying attention to detail in your day to day work is important to ensure consistency and reproducibility.”

“One of the most important things I’ve learned that I pass on to my students is accountability. It’s OK to make mistakes, but you need to acknowledge them and use them as a learning opportunity to improve the outcome next time”.

Melinda also believes that developing a healthy work/life balance should be part of everyone’s career journey. Melinda works really hard, but when she’s not in the lab, she loves to unwind by boating and snorkelling in Moreton Bay, listening to music and mixing cocktails.

Authors: 
Alison_Gould

Dr Alison Gould

Scientific Communications Specialist

At Lifeblood, Alison works with members of the Research and Development team to share their stories of science with their colleagues, collaborators and the public. Alison trained in chemistry and biochemistry, and gained a PhD in biochemistry from the University of New South Wales. She worked as a researcher in the biotechnology industry developing and manufacturing biopharmaceuticals. She loves working with scientists from all disciplines, and helping others understand the significance of their research.

MRACI CChem
Member of the Australia Science Communicators
Twitter: https://twitter.com/A2ali?lang=en
Linked in profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisongould1?trk=hp-identity-name
Any other links: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Alison_Gould2

Comments

These talented and dedicated young women will certainly help to enhance and develop the good work of the Red Cross Blood Service. Their important work should be an encouragement to students if science - particularly female students.

Thanks Nadia! Our scientists are a fantastic team, and are working hard to train the next generation of enthusiastic and enquiring minds.

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The information on this blog is presented by the Lifeblood’s Research and Development Team for the purposes of sharing general information and facilitating discussion about blood donation. It is not intended to be used or relied upon as medical advice. If you have a medical question, please consult your GP or health professional. For information on blood donation, or to find out if you’re eligible to donate, call 13 14 95.