Like mother, like daughter

Dr Katharine Bassett (BMedSc'(Hons) 15, PhD '19) and Professor Jane Dahlstrom OAM (PhD ‘92)
7 July 2022

My mum, Professor Jane Dahlstrom OAM, did her PhD in 1992 at the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) at the Australian National University (ANU). I don't think she ever thought that, 27 years on, her daughter would graduate from the same university - let alone the same research institution, JCSMR.

When mum finished her PhD, her relationship with the ANU initially continued more in the research space as a visiting fellow, however, was later approached in 2003 when the medical school was established to lead the Anatomical Pathology program. After years of working at ANU in varying roles, she became the Interim Dean of the ANU College of Health and Medicine in 2017.

As an expert in her field, mum would often do guest lectures for some of the other Colleges, including the ANU College of Science - where I was studying my Bachelor of Medical Science. I loved attending mum's lectures (even if I wasn't enrolled in the course) because her passion for what she teaches is infectious. This meant that by the time she taught my course, I knew the content back to front.

One of these lectures still holds a special place in my heart, quite literally. A few days after one of mum's lectures I received a message from my best friend Corrine saying that a guy called Jordan missed the lecture and had asked whether I could walk him through the content, as there wasn't a recording and there would be an exam question on it. I was obviously not impressed and thought he was very slack, but I believe in helping others. So, in a round-about way, my mum introduced me to my husband.

Another special thing about studying at ANU when mum was Interim Dean was that we were able to spend time together when she was in between meetings and I was in between experiments. It was also a privilege to be able to do some research together, and to confide in someone who not only understood my PhD, but also the challenges I was facing. I don't know how many academics can say that they have collaborated with one of their parents in their research. It created an incredibly special bond between mum and I.

I come from a long line of ANU graduates, with many of my siblings also studying at ANU. I left ANU with long-term friendships that I still have today, which I believe is a testament to the way the learning environment at ANU fosters friendships. I hit a few road bumps along the way - as we all do - but all my professors, in particular my supervisors Carola and Vicki, were willing to dedicate time to supporting me. For this reason, I chose to do both my Honours and PhD at ANU, and now my Masters. Ultimately, the way ANU fostered an environment of collaboration and connection is something that stays with me to this day.

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