Student stories



Ashish Shrestha

The Research and Development team welcomes international students to take part in our research program.

One of our research students, Ashish Shrestha, came to us from Nepal almost three years ago and completed his PhD in 2016 supported by the University of Queensland International Scholarship.  Last year he was selected, along with seven others from around the world, to take place in an innovative program to train young investigators. His PhD research involves studying the risk of hepatitis E virus to the Australian blood supply, and he has extended his work to a similar study in his home country of Nepal, where he was collecting samples a month after the earthquake last year.

During his final year of research, he was selected to take part in the global training program known as I TRY IT, developed by the International Society of Blood Transfusion (ISBT) Transfusion-Transmitted Infectious Disease (TTID) Working Party. The aim of the eight-month program is to train young researchers to develop, review and report on research projects in transfusion transmitted infectious diseases. Ashish was enthusiastic about his experience. “We had an opportunity to learn from experts from the US, Germany and South Africa. The program included webinars and face to face meetings at ISBT regional conferences in London and Bali.”

“I believe I have chosen the right place to get involved in research. The Lifeblood is an amazing place to explore ideas. With the availability of experts, and friendly and co-operative staff, it’s certainly an ideal place to learn and develop your ideas and skills.”



Htet Htet and Ben

Htet Htet Aung and Ben Wood

Research & Development is planning for a bright future, by training the next generation of researchers. After a year of practical training at the Lifeblood to complete their university degrees, Htet Htet Aung and Ben Wood have stepped up and joined the team as full time employees.

Htet Htet chose to leave her home country of Myanmar to study in Australia. “In my country the education system is not really advanced, and I realised that in Australia I could have more opportunities and be quickly independent” she said. Since arriving in Australia five years ago, Htet Htet has completed a Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) at Queensland University of Technology. In her final year, she honed her research skills with Dr John Paul Tung in the Lifeblood’s Queensland laboratories. Htet Htet’s research project, which was inspired by a short vacation placement she did at the Lifeblood, examined how the storage of red blood cells can lead to changes in their clot-forming ability. She has now relocated to Sydney, to become a fulltime employee in R&D. “I like that the Lifeblood is supportive, collaborative and a really nice environment”.

Ben Wood has spent 2015 completing the practical side of his degree with Dr Lacey Johnson in Sydney, exploring changes in platelets as a result of cold storage. Ben has now completed the requirements for his Master of Science (Honours) from the University of Technology, Sydney. He explains his choice to pursue research at the Lifeblood “The work we do here has a direct application.  It’s good to have that goal right there in front of you”. Ben’s culinary talents have been an unexpected asset to the Sydney team.  What’s Ben’s tip for a smooth Honours year? “It probably helps that my supervisor likes my cooking, and loves cats like I do!”.

Prof David Irving, Director of R&D says “In R&D we are trying to encourage some of the brightest emerging researchers to train in research relevant to the blood sector. It helps to strengthen our collaborations with universities, ultimately makes us more competitive, but most of all it’s a great pleasure to see these bright young scientists join our team”.




Navpreet Kaur Walia

Our Research and Development team are committed training the next generation of researchers, and we use our experience to train and mentor students in the blood sector and beyond.

As part of our commitment, some of our senior staff act as mentors for students who are studying STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths). Our latest mentee, Navpreet Kaur Walia, came to us through the Industry Mentoring Network in Stem (IMNIS), an initiative of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.

She has written this piece to share her experience of postgraduate research and how the mentoring program has helped her.

Have you ever wondered whether pond scum is useful? You may not realise it, but the algae in that scum can be used to make many industrially important things, such as renewable biofuels for cars, or it could become a source of protein for human and animal food.

Microalgae, the single-celled creatures that make up pond scum, are finding new uses in the laboratory. They can be used as tiny factories for complex medicines known as biopharmaceuticals.  In my research, I am working with microalgae and trying to improve the production of anti-cancer and anti-viral proteins.  It could prove to be very beneficial for society as microalgae are cheap to grow, and the proteins we can isolate from them are very valuable. 

I’m in the final year of my PhD in the Climate Change Cluster at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), and I started doing a PhD because I like the blend of independent research, theoretical study and practical experience that comes with doing a PhD by research.  I’m at the Lifeblood because I joined Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) as a mentee in the 2017 NSW IMNIS program, and Professor David Irving, Director of Research and Development at the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood is my mentor.

IMNIS has helped me to expand my horizons beyond the university environment, where I have been working for the last seven years. Through the program I have met new people and have a better understanding of life outside academia.   

 I am very fortunate to have David as my mentor because he helped me develop skills which are important in industry, such as refining my presentation and interview skills and learning about project management. We met every month and David helped me to understand work culture in industry, and encouraged me to think about my research and future goals. Now I can see how I can apply the skills I have developed during my PhD in industry, for example problem solving and better time management. I am very grateful for David for his time and efforts. When I shared my desire to become a scientific communicator with David he introduced me to his colleague and Science Communicator at the Lifeblood,  Dr Alison Gould.  I am very thankful to her for her time and advice. Overall, my IMNIS mentee experience at the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood in Sydney, Australia was very fruitful, and I’m grateful to all the staff who welcomed me.

After completing the IMNIS program, I would say both the University and industry have their own pros and cons. However, you can do great research in both environments. Only by exploring different opportunities you will get a better idea about what is right for you. However, it’s always good to learn something new you have never experienced before.

If you’re a student wondering whether to be in university or in industry after completing your PhD, I have one final piece of advice: Change is inevitable, so it is very important to place yourself outside your comfort zone. It will help you to gain new skills and to expand your horizons. In addition, you will realize that you are capable of much more than you have realized.

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