ALWAYS A MATER GIRL – Melanie Shears (2003)


It’s hard to summarise my journey from Mater Christi student to malaria research scientist in a few paragraphs.

There were so many alternative paths I could have taken. My academic and professional career path has not been a straight line, but it led me to where I am today - living overseas and working in an area of science that I find meaningful and engaging.

When I completed Year 12, I couldn’t decide between studying Arts and Science, so began a combined Arts/Science degree at the University of Melbourne. I chose subjects from both areas and after much indecision, eventually decided Science was my calling. I transferred to a Bachelor of Science, studied and worked part-time to support myself financially.

The next choice was what to do after my degree. Should I continue studying or work? I did both. I worked in a malaria lab for a few years, then returned to complete my Honours and PhD in malaria research. The break between my studies put me a few years behind my peers, but it introduced me to malaria research, and I soon grew to really love it.

After my PhD I took the big step of moving to the US. I was offered a position at Johns Hopkins University which has one of the world’s best malaria research centres. This meant moving away from my family and friends, but I was excited by the travel and wonderful career opportunities.

During my time at Hopkins, I started to build a life in the US and met my fiancé. The next big question was the decision to stay in the US or return to Australia. We decided to stay in the US, at least for the time being.

I am just about to move to a new position at the University of Washington in Seattle where I’ll continue malaria research and begin the next stage of my career.

Did I imagine this pathway when I was a student at Mater Christi College? Most definitely not.

Did I worry about each of the choices that led me here? Of course I did.

But am I happy? Most definitely, definitely yes.

Melanie Shears, Peer Year 2003

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