Life after a PhD (and the pandemic!)

Photo of Yvette Wooff, PhD Scholar

Yvette Wooff is coming to the end of her PhD project – it has been a four-year process for the Kiwi who relocated to Canberra is 2016. She is due to submit her thesis in July and in a lot of respects, the pandemic couldn’t have come at a better time for her.

“The lockdown arrived during my maternity leave and so I’m trying to make the most of this time with my newborn daughter while home schooling my two older boys.” With a partner who is an essential worker Yvette has been able to focus on the silver lining of the situation – spending quality time with her children.

“I write at night and on weekends. Being at home has made writing slower but 2 out of 4 of my chapters are published already and the other 2 have been written up before this point so that helps a lot!”

Yvette’s path to a PhD was not straight forward or easy. In fact, she says “I never thought I’d end up doing research.” Yvette’s original goal was to attend medical school and become a doctor. But when applications to medical school in NZ didn’t pan out she successfully applied for a conjoint program to ANU Medical School with a PhD. “ANU was an attractive choice. I had two young children at the time and the only way I could fund a move to Australia was with a scholarship, which ANU offered.”

The early days of her PhD project, which focussed on paediatrics, were tough due to a lack of funding and so Yvette deferred the start of Medical School. A year and half later and funding prospects weren’t looking better. With the help of Doctor Riccardo Natoli and Professor Imogen Mitchell, she transferred into Doctor Natoli’s lab and started her PhD again, this time focusing on inflammatory pathways in age related macular degeneration.

For a second year, Yvette deferred the start of Medical School.  “Eventually I realised that I loved research far more than the idea of being a doctor and cancelled my place at the Medical School.”

Yvette credits her ability to maintain a work/life balance, during her PhD and now during the COVID crisis, to her supervisor Doctor Riccardo Natoli. “Ric has been amazing. He has children of his own so understands that kids and family come first. He has given me support from the beginning and has no issues if I need more time to complete by PhD.”   

Given Yvette’s determination it’s a safe bet she’ll be submitting on time. The future beyond her PhD is also looking bright with Yvette due to start a postdoctoral position on 1 June 2020 in Doctor Natoli’s lab.