Dr Laura Forrest
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
DEscribe your research (i.e. what disease are you hoping to treat/cure?)
I am a postdoctoral fellow and leader of Psychosocial Onco-Genomic Research Group within the Familial Cancer Centre. My research focuses on the psychosocial impact of inherited cancer syndromes. I conduct research with families who have an inherited cancer syndrome and the clinical staff (genetic and oncological health professionals) who care for them. My research aims to ensure the information and support needs of families with inherited cancer syndromes are met to ensure they can make informed decision-making about their significantly increased cancer risk and the implications of their genetic carrier status. My postdoctoral fellowship research involves young women who are BRCA1/2 carriers. This research examines the intersection between these young women’s management of their significantly increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer and their education, careers, relationships, and childbearing and rearing.
Where are you hoping your research will take you?
I hope my research will flourish to be internationally recognised through an excellent track record that will also enable me to grow my research group, continuing conducting psychosocial genetic research, and collaborate with progressive and inspiring researchers and clinicians.
What do you need, as a female scientist, to keep doing your research?
I need funding, infrastructure support, more progressive female researcher role models, an eighth day of the week, and a prehensile tail. However, in lieu of a rapid evolutionary process and astrophysical shift in the space-time continuum, just the first three would suffice.
Do you have a role model who has inspired you? If so, tell us about them and how they have influenced your career.
Two of my female relatives, an ‘aunt’ and my great-aunt, are role models who have inspired my career. My aunt, Dr Susan Forrest, is actually my first cousin once removed (abbreviated to aunt for ease of explanation) and is the past-CEO of the Australian Genome Research Foundation. Susie organised my work experience at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) when I was in year 10. From recollection, I helped stuff envelopes for the POSSUM database. This illustrious start furthered my developing interest in genetics and over the course of another decade I eventually made my way back to the MCRI to undertake a PhD in psychosocial genetics research. Susie gave me great advice during my PhD like the adage: “it’s a PhD not a Nobel prize”. AKA, just get it done.
When I was first accepted to start undergraduate science at The University of Melbourne in 1999, my great-aunt (an actual aunt) told me that she had studied science at Melbourne Uni exactly 50 years prior in 1949. I can only imagine what the male-female ratio of science students would have been like in 1949 through to the 1950’s. Aunt Anne went on to work at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute after she graduated from Melbourne Uni. Progressive, and I imagine, tenacious to persist in a career that would have been very male dominated at the time.
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