Student Profile - Sarah Charnaud

Sarah speaks about her research

Sarah successfully completed her PhD in 2015 through the Burnet Institute where she studied Malaria parasite survival in the human body. She now works as a Research Officer at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. This interview was originally published during Sarah's PhD.

Sarah is a Research Assistant and a PhD student at the Burnet Institute. She is researching the way that the Malaria parasite survives in the human body and is working towards Malaria drug discovery. Her supervisors are Professor Brendan Crabb and Dr Paul Gilson.

How long have you been working at the Burnet Institute?
5 years, since I moved to Australia in 2008.

Where did you come from?
I was originally in Zimbabwe, but I was living in England before I came here.  I moved to England when I was about 4 and then my family and I were half in England and half in Zimbabwe till I was 11.

What’s your favourite thing about Melbourne?
I like being able to be in the city and get out of it really easily. I do a lot of mountain biking and diving and cycling so it’s great. The city is so good, I love riding in over the Swanston Street Bridge and have a beautiful view of the city, especially at dusk or dawn.

Who is your supervisor?

I have two supervisors, Brendan Crabb and Paul Gilson. Brendan is Director of the Burnet institute and I came to Australia to work with him. He’s probably one of the best in the field in Molecular techniques with Malaria parasite. So I just hassled him for a year until he gave me a Research Assistant position.

What’s your favourite thing about your supervisors?

They complement each other. Brendan is big picture: “How we’re gonna save the world!” And Paul’s much more “How are we actually going to look at this experiment in detail”. So I get on well with both of them and our whole lab goes out a lot so it’s really great.

What was your first job ever?

I washed a car. I worked for this guy called Mr Mole and I even had to clean inside his exhaust pipe. Then I raked up leaves as well in an orchard…it was soul destroying!

What do you like doing in your spare time?

I’ve just bought a house, so I’ve started to do a lot of gardening to that’s nice. But I love riding my bike and running. I broke my leg last year though which really put a spanner in the works, so since then I’ve just got back into it.

Where is your favourite country so far?

I went to the Philippines, which is where I broke my leg, but the country was awesome. I love Zimbabwe, it’s just amazing, it’s got mountains and lakes and safari…it’s got everything. My favourite spot in Australia is definitely Wilson’s Prom.

When do you finish your PhD and what do you plan on doing when you do?

I finish in about 6 months. I’m still deciding what I’m going to do, but I’d still like to be able to travel though. I’d quite like to work in a developing country for a while and try and help with their Malaria research. I find it really weird that across the world most of the Malaria research is done in developed countries which don’t have Malaria.

What made you choose your area of research?
I saw my friends and family suffer from Malaria when we were kids, and one of my best friends died of AIDS when we were 12 because he got it from his mum when he was born, so I’ve always wanted to be a scientist and fix it.
I went to see Novartis, the pharmaceutical company when I was 7 and I got to see electron microscopes and one of the first PCR machines, and it took up an entire building and it was just the coolest thing! So this is pretty much what I’ve wanted to do since then.