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Former fellows, where are they now? – A/Prof Haryana Dhillon

The Sydney Vital Flagship Fellow scheme gives emerging researchers the opportunity to develop their own research program over a period of twelve months, with mentorship from leaders in translational cancer research and access to Sydney Vital’s research infrastructure. We wanted to check in with some of our former fellows and see where they have taken their research careers since the fellowship.

A move from Sydney Vital to the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney may not be the most conventional path for a cancer researcher, but for A/Prof Haryana Dhillon, it has paid off.

The psycho-oncology researcher was one of Sydney Vital’s first fellows with the Breast Cancer Flagship from 2014 to 2015.

“The fellowship was really instrumental in keeping me in research – I had given myself five years from my PhD to become more established, and I received the fellowship just at the end of those five years,” she remembers. “It meant that I didn’t have to go off and execute my backup plan.”

She credits her fellowship with really driving home the importance of teamwork. “Research is a team sport, it’s not just a lone genius scientist working on their own. It requires multi- and interdisciplinary collaboration to achieve the best possible outcomes,” she says.

This collaborative approach also sits at the heart of one of the most important successes of her career so far – obtaining an MRFF Brain Cancer Mission – Brain Cancer Survivorship Grant last year.

“That was a culmination of the work of so many people, bringing together four cancer cooperative research groups and ten institutions across the country,” she says. “Just getting the grant itself felt like a huge achievement, let alone what we will have achieved with it by the end of the funding period.”

Haryana has been passing on the passion for her work to the research students she supervises, two of which were recently awarded their PhDs.

“Seeing these passionate and talented PhD students and early career researchers and looking at my own situation when I got the Sydney Vital fellowship really highlights the importance of these programs,” she says.

“It’s about keeping really good people in research and giving them the funding and support they need.”

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