It was a light bulb moment in Year
10 maths that enabled Katrina Lawrence (nee Staines), class of 2000, to pursue
a successful career into science. Now working as a Microbiologist, she completed
a Bachelor of Science in microbiology, with a graduate certificate of molecular
biology and has worked in STEM industry for 15 years.
“The defining moment for me came in
year 10 at St John Fisher College when I was bombing in maths. Everyone knew I
was born to be a microbiologist, boring everyone with stories of gory
infections. I was acing science, but just couldn't handle maths,” Katrina said.
“My maths teacher Mr O'Connor pulled
me into his office to show me exactly how I was doing in maths and said;
“There's no way you can be this good at science and that bad at maths. I'm
going to be blunt, if you don't do better in maths, you won't get into
“Mr McCourt did his bit by
explaining things in another way and with that, quadratic equations suddenly
became crystal clear. Mrs Blum continued this into year 11 and 12. I even came
second in senior Maths B. If not for the solid education, and these people who believed
in me, I would not have achieved any of this”.
Starting her career as a laboratory
aide at Sullivan Niccolaides pathology in 2004, Katrina worked her way up to scientist
after graduating, and branched into quality control, quality assurance and
routine diagnostics. After accepting a scientist position at the Prince Charles
Hospital, she worked in the microbiology lab, the very same workplace that
hosted her work experience in Year 11 at St John Fisher College.
It was the three years of intensive
training received at Prince Charles Hospital that set the trajectory for her career,
later transferring to the TB and microbiology departments at the Royal Brisbane
In 2017, Katrina accepted a job as
a research assistant in Child Health at the Menzies School of Health Research
in Darwin where she was responsible for the day to day operations of the child
“We investigate the causes of
serious ear and lung disease in Indigenous children and seek to expand
microbiology laboratory capabilities in our South East Asian near neighbours.
“I am also heavily involved in
training young Indigenous women in laboratory skills, my last trainee is the NT
Indigenous apprentice of the year and gained entry to a Bachelor of Nursing
through this pathway.”
Katrina was the first person in the
world to isolate a bacterium that has had its genetic signature detected in the
noses of very sick kids with very serious lung disease, authoring a published
paper on the breakthrough.
Currently based in Darwin, and
completing a PHD, Katrina is making waves on the world science stage with a
recent finding that may well change the management of children at risk of Rheumatic
“My hope is that by sharing my
story, I can inspire just one young woman scientist. We need more women in STEM
and it's getting easier overall for women. It can also take you places to do
things you never imagined possible,” Katrina said.