International Women's Day: a day in the life of Tina Skinner-Adams

To celebrate women in STEM this International Women's Day, we spoke to Tina Skinner-Adams, Research Leader, Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, to find out what her typical day as a research scientist entails.

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Mar 05, 2018
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Dr. Tina Skinner-Adams

Research Leader, Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery

A brief biography:

Tina Skinner-Adams is a Research Leader at the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (GRIDD; Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia). She holds four current Australian National Health and Medical Research Project Grants to investigate new antiparasitic drugs, and has four PhD candidates working on malaria and giardiasis. Tina completed her PhD at the University of Western Australia (Perth, Australia) in 2000 and has been working in the field of anti-parasitic drug discovery and inhibitor target identification since this time (University of Western Australia (2000-01), QIMR Berghofer (Brisbane, Australia; 2001-12), University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia; 2005-08) and Griffith University (2012- current).

My alarm goes off…

In all honesty I never set an alarm. My body clock wakes me up at 5:30–6:00 AM every morning, so there is no need. My morning usually begins with at least 30 minutes of exercise, usually a walk with Chief, my 6 year old Staffy-cross, an indoor cycle, or both. It is then time for breakfast and a survival coffee before knocking on my two teenager’s bedroom doors to make sure they are on the move, a shower and change into my work gear. The school drop-off and the drive into work takes an hour on a good day, or 2 hours on a bad day, so there is not usually time for much else on a week-day morning. I do occasionally get a chance to check emails and catchup on the news, whether that be via the television, Twitter or Facebook. 

I’m responsible for…

As a research leader at GRIDD, I lead my own research and research team, and have a number of multi-institutional research projects that I contribute to. These projects all have the primary goal of identifying new drugs to fight antiparasitic drug resistance and to learn how these and current drugs work. I also have various research leadership roles within GRIDD and the wider research community, including a role on the Research Committee at GRIDD and a current Australian Society for Parasitology Council position. I have undergraduate teaching and mentor responsibilities (currently 20% undergraduate teaching commitment), and post-graduate student supervision and mentor responsibilities.

My typical day…

One of the best things about my work is that there is no typical day. While on some days I am completely consumed with meetings, travel, marking or teaching, on others I can be solely laboratory focused, brainstorming ideas around drug action or getting my hands dirty in the lab with my team. There is nothing more exciting than finding the puzzle piece that brings everything together. My laboratory and broader research days are my favourite, although I also enjoy the days when I get the opportunity to talk to others about my work and science in general.

The strangest thing that has happened…

Strange things? Hmm, I guess I’ve seen many. Interestingly, most have been the result of young scientists finding their way around the laboratory – I guess more experienced scientists sometimes forget to be explicit about common laboratory practices when introducing them to budding new scientists. One of the most memorable I’ve seen is hand-colored-in autoclave tape.

The best part of my job…

Without a shadow of a doubt the best part of my job is knowing that each and every day I am making a contribution to the lives of others, whether that be through teaching the next generation of scientists, inspiring community members to learn more about science or contributing to fighting some of the world’s most devastating diseases.

The worst part of my job…

The worst part is doing the things that take my attention away from the best parts of my job, including continually applying for funding.

After work…

When I get home from work in the evenings I have dinner with my family. My husband usually has dinner prepared by the time I get home so my role is often the kitchen cleanup post-dinner. Beyond that my evenings are spent being ‘dance Mum’, helping with homework, trying to catchup on lab paperwork or surfing to see what my colleagues have been up to. It isn’t until the weekend that I get the opportunity to indulge in some of my hobbies. I love most things creative, but particularly enjoy getting into the kitchen to experiment. I like to bake and I really love to make cheese. Outside of the kitchen I also enjoy paper crafts and making my own soaps.

I always wanted to be…

I always wanted to be a vet. I applied to study veterinary science when I left high school but didn’t make the cut. My backup plan was to enrol in a BSc in biotechnology and to use this to transfer into vet science. However, in the interim I fell in love with parasitology and developed a strong desire to learn more about parasites and to help those inflicted by these organisms. I guess there is a lesson there; sometimes not getting what you want can be a gift.

Who is your female role model/hero/inspirational woman? 

My greatest inspiration has and will always be my love for science, and my desire to contribute to the lives of others and to make the world a better place. There have been many inspirational women along the way, many of whom, as a result of their actions, have ensured that other women, like myself, have the opportunity to contribute to science. It is difficult for me to single out any individual female role model. The fight for equality, science excellence and improved health has been one that many women and men have contributed to.

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