Finding a balance, saving young lives

I am grateful for all the opportunities this scholarship has given me and I hope to continue to develop my career in neurological genetic research.

Science can be demanding, and during the early stages of a researcher's career it can be tricky balancing family and work. With the help of the Woodroofe Scholarship and initiatives being trialled at ANU, Hannah Jones found her balance.

Hannah, a new mother and PhD candidate at the Research School of Biology, is researching the human genetic condition Holoprosencephaly (HPE) to try to identify a therapeutic target for the disease.

HPE is a birth defect of the brain which affects facial features, causing closely spaced eyes, small head size, and sometimes clefts of the lip and roof of the mouth during the early development of the human embryo.

HPE is observed in one in 10,000 births but is estimated to affect up to one in 250 pregnancies. Developing a treatment for this disease is imperative - both to increase the survival rate of affected embryos and to improve quality of life for surviving sufferers.

Hannah is passionate about the potential for genetic research but is pragmatic about the challenges of a career in science.

"I truly believe that work on genetic research is essential in improving the health of the world, but there can be many obstacles to gaining and keeping a genetic research position," says Hannah.

Hannah came to ANU from Melbourne in 2011 after receiving the Woodroofe Scholarship, which was established by the celebrated scientist Gwendolyn Woodroofe and her sister Kathleen.

"I feel very fortunate to have the Scholarship as it allows me to focus my time and energy on my studies without the added pressure of finding casual employment," she says.

Hannah believes the Woodroofe Scholarship has been vital to her postgraduate studies, giving her a head-start at the beginning of her career, and allowing her to work at having a successful professional career while still providing for a family.

"The Woodroofe Scholarship not only provided me with a supplement to my income but also helped me with my new family. I am particularly appreciative of the twelve weeks of maternity pay it provided - it was invaluable after the birth of my son," she says.

I am grateful for all the opportunities this scholarship has given me and I hope to continue to develop my career in neurological genetic research.

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