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Former fellows, where are they now? – Dr Hilary Byrne

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.

Dr Hilary Byrne’s research career is a perfect model of the translational research pathway, from basic science to clinical trials via animal studies. Starting with a PhD focusing on computer simulation of radiation interactions at the sub-cellular scale, the physicist shifted to small animal research with her 2018-2019 Sydney Vital Nano-oncology Flagship Fellowship project, with her main focus remaining on radiotherapy.
She has since moved on to her second postdoc at the ACRF Image X Institute under Prof Paul Keall, where she focuses on CT-based imaging in human trials.

“In my fellowship project, we were looking at characterizing a novel compound for radiotherapy applications. At the moment, that work is still ongoing, but it also carries over into my new area,” she explains.

Hilary’s fellowship has allowed her to make valuable connections. “I was based at the main campus of the University of Sydney, so having contacts at the Kolling was invaluable,” she says. “I’ve been working closely with Kelly McKelvey as a lot of my fellowship project work focused on small animals.”

In her second postdoc, she has once more moved “further along the translational pathway,” as she puts it, and is now working on human clinical trials. “It’s still all about improving radiotherapy, but the focus is quite different.”

“The Sydney Vital fellowship was instrumental in securing this second postdoc,” she says. “A fellowship like this is vital in the early stages of your research career to show that you have projects that are fundable, that you can see them through, and that you can establish collaborations that extend into the future.”

She has fond memories of her fellowship: “My experience with Sydney Vital was lovely, very supportive and helpful. And not too much admin, which is always much appreciated!”

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