When Associate Professor Dr Martina Sanderson-Smith joined UOW as a young science student, she wasn’t clear of the path ahead. But that certainly did not impact her rise through her field to esteemed Senior Research Fellow in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience, Molecular Horizons.

“I had no idea what a PHD was, nobody in my family had a PhD and I didn’t know anybody with one,” Dr Sanderson-Smith recalls humbly.

It was following her natural curiosity and a desire to find answers to her questions, that led her to study science.

“I’ve been interested in infectious disease since primary school,” she says. “We had to do an assignment about a natural disaster and Mum said go and look up the black plague in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. I don’t know why, but I spent a whole rainy Saturday poring over these pages.”

At an early age, Dr Sanderson-Smith was equally curious about humanities and science.

“The historical and cultural implications of it [the black plague] fascinated me,” she says.

“As a kid it touched on all the things that interested me – people, disease, communities – and I’d spend time inventing medicines, potions and inventing experiments with plants.”

Dr Sanderson-Smith could see that infections were a big problem in many countries around the world, particularly for children, and her internal drive to make a difference was sparked by her fascination with science.

“I loved my undergraduate honours project and was really interested in answering the questions that I’d started to explore. The only option really was to do a PhD.”

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