Today, we’re profiling Jessica Boulter – one of NCARD’s excellent PhD students!
Before starting a PhD, Jess completed her honours at NCARD. She is currently in her third year of study, supervised by Professors Alec Redwood, Jenette Creaney, and Bruce Robinson. Jess’s interests lie in tumour immunology, and she contributes to the team’s research into neoantigen anti-cancer vaccines – vaccines that drive a tumour-specific immune response to treat cancer and prevent recurrence. Her project, funded by an iCare Dust Diseases PhD Scholarship, aims to develop a vaccine for mesothelioma.
As a result of her hard work, Jess was selected to present at the 16th International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig) Conference held in Lille later this month. Her efforts were recognised by The University of Western Australia’s (UWA) Graduate Research School, which awarded Jess a travel grant to help cover her trip to France. Part of her costs were also paid by the UWA Postgraduate Student Association, whose panellists remarked they were “thoroughly impressed with [her] application and the quality of [her] proposed research”.
Outside of her research activities, Jess is a keen advocate for her fellow scientists’ welfare. She has made a significant impact in this area as a cofounder of student-led initiative Kindness in Science (KiS). KiS was invited to contribute a commentary last year in Immunology and Cell Biology discussing their goal to ‘establish a happier scientific community built on diversity, respect and well-being’. In the article, the KiS team explained the importance of kindness to improve scientists’ health, happiness and scientific outcomes, create a sustainable workplace, and build a stronger connection with the public.
Jess and her fellow KiS members organise events designed to promote healthy habits and relieve stress for researchers in the UWA and Harry Perkins community, such as free workshops and yoga sessions. Notably, KiS launched a mental health framework for NCARD PhD students last year, which improved self-reported stress. The framework will continue to be implemented this year, after the success of the previous trial.
Jess also helps lead NCARD’s Student Development Hour, a program aiming to equip graduate students with the skills needed to thrive in their course, and to offer peer support and guidance. Student Development Hour was recently extended to include additional research teams from our campus.
Jess is a member of the award-winning Planet Conscious Researchers Taskforce (PCR). The taskforce aims to reduce the environmental impact of biomedical science through innovations such as developing a novel sterilisation protocol for plastic media bottles that enabled them to be recycled. The team has been acknowledged by both UWA and the State Government for their commitment to minimising waste.
To cap it all off, Jess was just accepted into the Advanced Immunology School, a three-and-a-half-day camp for early-career researchers held by the Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology. She will be heading to Adelaide in August, where she will learn about cutting edge immunological research from outstanding scientists in the field.
Jess’s journey is inspiring, and we can’t wait to see what she does next!
To keep up with Jess and her research, follow her on Twitter @immunolojess.