Connected Conversations | Hannah Wardill

Our series, Connected Conversations, continues with the dynamic Dr Hannah Wardill, NHMRC CJ Martin Biomedical Research Fellow on how she’s adapting her routine, staying motivated and rediscovering forgotten hobbies.



Tell us a little about yourself…

I am a researcher with an interest in supportive oncology and understanding how the bacteria in our gut regulates our response to cancer therapy. I recently returned to Australia after spending two years in the Netherlands for my postdoctoral research. Unfortunately, my time in the Netherlands ended early due to the coronavirus outbreak. I am now at home quarantining and preparing my home office! I live in Prospect with my partner, Nick, and our friend Kurt.

What is your area of research?

Broadly, my research falls within the field of supportive care in cancer. We aim to improve the outcomes of cancer therapy by preventing or controlling the side effects of treatment. I am specifically interested in the interaction between bacteria in our guts...I love all things to do with poo!  I collaborate with a broad variety of specialists including gastroenterology, microbiology and immunology. I am a research-intensive academic, meaning I spend almost all my time doing laboratory-based work.

Have the changes at University impacted your routine?

I rely heavily on having regular and fairly unrestricted access to a lab. I conduct both preclinical and clinical research and at the moment all my clinical research has been paused due to COVID-19. However, this has been a good opportunity for me revisit some tasks that had been building up on my ‘to do’ list including planning promotional activities, grant writing, digging into some data sets that needed analysing and writing up two-years’ worth of research that I completed in the Netherlands.

Has the current situation enabled you to do more/less in your area of research?

I am keeping in mind that I am at home, working during a pandemic – I’m not just ‘working from home’. I feel like this is an important distinction to make. We are all faced with different challenges, and for me, separating work and life has always been a very important aspect of my productivity. I love to go to work and work hard while I am there, knowing that when I go home, I can relax and enjoy myself. I have now solidified a routine for working at home. I make clear and achievable goals for each day and am modifying my goals to ensure that they are better suited for an ‘at home’ working environment.

What opportunities do you see?

Digital conferences! I have missed several conferences recently, some of which I had significant leadership roles and was invited to present. I did attend one conference that was converted to an online format. It was run fairly successfully and showed that it is possible to engage in this way without people travelling extraordinary distances to attend a conference for just a few days. I think the coronavirus pandemic may be the push we need to re-think how conferences are organised and how they can be modified to reduce their environmental, economic and personal impact. I think we need to figure out the social engagement, collaboration and networking elements and if they can be maintained in an online environment.

How do you stay motivated?

Apart from drinking lots of coffee, my lab and I have regular morning meetings to just say hello, touch base and let each other know where we are at. It is nice to hear that we all face the same challenges, and by sharing our experiences, we can help motivate each other. 

What’s your best advice to stay positive at this time?

Enjoy the small things that you ‘didn’t have time’ to appreciate before. I have rediscovered painting and found it to be a good stress relief.

Name three things you won’t miss about this current time...

Hand sanitiser, drinks over Zoom and no hugs.

And, three things you won’t forget...

My thirtieth birthday in quarantine, the word ‘unprecedented’ and isolation memes.

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