Meet Dr Melanie Eckersley-Maslin, lab head and Snow Medical Fellow investigating epigenetic plasticity in development and cancer at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the University of Melbourne. Here she talks about her research journey and its compatibility with family life.
What is your current role and how did you get to be there?
I’m a laboratory head at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and also hold a joint appointment in the Department of Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Melbourne. My research group investigates what gives cells their identity and how they adapt to change. I’ve always been a curious child, and growing up in Tasmania I developed a real interest in nature and biology. I was never satisfied with being told a fact, but wanted to prove to myself something was really true and understand why. Leaving school I didn’t know what I wanted ‘to be’, so followed my interests in maths, physics and biology and went to the University of Sydney to study advanced sciences.
My program let undergrads do rotations in research labs as credit and this opened my eyes to the world of research. Since then I’ve combined my love of travelling and science and lived across the world doing research: first in New York and then Cambridge, UK. It was here that I met my husband and we had our two sons. After my first son was born I realised I was ready to make the next step in my career. I was also conscious of where I wanted to bring up my family and the type of lifestyle I wanted to have. So, we decided to move back home to Australia, mid-pandemic, where I started my independent research group in January 2021. Throughout my career journey I’ve always followed my passions and am really grateful that I get to do what I do every day and make a living for it.
How does your work contribute to the field and/or the overall health and wellbeing of the community?
I have spent the last decade or so training as a developmental biologist, seeking to understand how a single cell, the fertilised egg, gives rise to the large complexity and diversity of cell types found in the adult body….