Tanya Ward joined NCARD at the end of October as a Program Manager, a change which, in 2020, also meant a 14 day quarantine. Here she gives us some background.
Despite being born in Sydney, I’m actually from WA, with time spent in Port Hedland and Mandurah before coming to Perth at the age of 12. I studied at UWA to gain a Bachelor of Science with Honors and went on to do a PhD while based at Royal Perth Hospital. At the end of my PhD, in 1999, I went to Florida for postdoctoral work. Now I understand why my Mum was so worried I’d be gone for good, as it took me 21 years to finally move back to Perth.
During my PhD, I studied epigenetic changes associated with malignant stromal progression. It’s a mouthful, I know. The idea came from the observation that some tumours can be made up of a mix of two different cancer cell types. Did normal cells supporting the growth of the initial tumour ‘catch cancer’ to form the second cancerous cell type and could we create a model of this in mice? Spoiler: it’s actually really hard to ‘catch cancer’ this way.
Before I came to NCARD I worked in roles based in hospitals, universities and medical research institutes. My more recent roles involved supporting multi-institutional partnerships and collaborative research. This has given me a flavour of how research is done in different organisations, some of the challenges and opportunities associated with each, and how to bridge the divide. I also spent five years supporting an educational program, produced in partnership between a hospital and university and delivered around Australia and many international sites. It was a fantastic learning experience and I was fortunate to travel to some of the international centres. One site visit in the Solomon Islands meant a long off-road drive and final leg in a tinny with an outboard from what was already a fairly remote base. Apart from the glamorous travel, the role taught me a lot about the value of cooperation, diverse teams and visionary leadership.
My role here is to assist the NCARD team with operational activities, including establishing systems so they can focus on what they do best – world-class research.
“I can contribute my experience as a researcher who worked ‘at the bench’ in health and medical research combined with experience in operational management and research administration. This helps me to see where I can add value by having been on both sides of the fence.”
Since starting here I’ve learned that the NCARD team are extremely passionate about research and making a difference. It is wonderful to be around such enthusiasm and to be warmly welcomed into the fold.
Moving to WA during lockdown meant navigating a fairly opaque system. But it also reinforced for myself and my family that change can be wonderful and not always as hard as you think.
And now I get to see the sun set over the ocean again; it’s the way it should be.