Researcher turned Industry Intern

Dr Karen Holden has commenced working with Poultry CRC partners Bioproperties and Eimeria Pty Ltd within the CRC’s internship program. Previously Karen has been a CRC-supported PhD student, and has worked as a post-doc at The University of Melbourne and CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory. We asked Karen to recount her path into the poultry industry, and the professional career opportunities that have resulted along the way. From research to industry, Karen’s journey to date demonstrates what is possible in poultry in Australia.

“My journey into poultry research started with a general interest of how things work, a passion for animal health, and a fascination with the natural world from a young age” she said. “After a degree in Biological Science (at La Trobe University) with a double major in Biochemistry and Microbiology, I moved to RMIT University to undertake an Honours project in human Medical Microbiology. I made knock-out mutants of Campylobacter jejuni in an attempt to understand which genes were important in how this bacterium produced lipooligosaccharides. I briefly worked as a research assistant on a project looking at drug resistance in malarial parasites before deciding that I wanted to go back to study to undertake a PhD. The change of universities turned out to be a good call, as this is where I met my now husband”.

Karen completed her PhD (supported by the CRC) for Microtechnology in 2007 at RMIT University.  Her PhD project involved investigating Campylobacter jejuni pathogenesis at a molecular level.  “This is where I learned that about 95% of the time, research doesn’t produce instant, tangible results, and you need to be committed and positive to push through the quieter times to get a chance to celebrate the eureka moments (that can be few and far between)” she commented.

Remaining in the area of bacterial pathogens of importance to the poultry industry, Karen undertook her first post-doc appointment at The University of Melbourne with support from the CRC. “In my time at Melbourne University, I designed and constructed a vaccine to protect chickens from avian pathogenic Escherichia coli infection and in amongst that I had my first child” said Karen. “Early last year I completed my second post-doc at the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory working on a vaccine to reduce colonisation of Campylobacter jejuni in poultry, again supported by the Poultry CRC. During my time with CSIRO my second child came along. Along the way I’ve made some good friends within the poultry research community”.

Karen quipped that, “given that each time I do a postdoc I also have a child, I decided to try something different”. So, she now finds herself as a Poultry CRC intern, having the exciting opportunity to explore vaccine development from “the other side” through working with the vaccine manufacturing companies Bioproperties and Eimeria Pty. Ltd. “I’m pretty chuffed about what I’m doing now, and enjoy the opportunity to bring my research experience into an industrial setting” she said. “I’ve always liked doing research that addresses specific problems, particularly when it leads to a product that can improve the health of livestock.  I still have passion for animal health and am grateful for being able to contribute to solutions in this area”.



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