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A story not often told – the unseen scientists who help discoveries to happen

Authors:
Iqira Saeed – Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Griffith University
Ryma Tarsha Kurdi – Sunnybank State High School

It is often the researcher leaders who, once a discovery is made, are spotlighted by the media – they get to stand tall, centre-stage while people clap for and celebrate their accomplishments. However, there are many people behind the scenes who assist, support, and help bring their discoveries to life. One such person is Russell Jarrott, who is a Laboratory Manager and Senior Research Assistant at the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery (GRIDD), Griffith University.

Russell plays an essential role in the science ecosystem. Researchers need support to accomplish their goals, and Russell provides that support daily, leading to various benefits for researchers and their work. It’s roles like Russell’s that, while often acknowledged internally at their workplaces, aren’t always known about by the general public. It is important that we all learn about the contributions scientists like Russell make, as there is a need for more people to take on roles such as his.

“Here at GRIDD we support and recognise our technical and professional staff. It is important that we get their stories out to the public as well, so they are also able to acknowledge their contributions. It also allows people to learn about the diverse roles in science research – we will need more jobs like Russell’s to be filled in the future to support continued efforts across a range of research areas,” said Professor Sally-Ann Poulsen, Deputy Director GRIDD.

Russell’s day-to-day activities involve facilitating the smooth and efficient running of the laboratories within the GRIDD research facility. He supports scientists to do their research in a number of ways, including maintaining various equipment available within the laboratories and training and supporting scientists in their use, so as to ensure accurate scientific results. He is also responsible for the risk assessment and safety training of researchers within the facility to ensure a high level of safety in the laboratories. On top of these tasks, he also runs routine experiments, such as the purification of proteins, so as to assist researchers in reaching their goals.

What Russell enjoys most about his role is that it is very task orientated, he can tick important daily tasks off his agenda one by one. Being able to know when, where, why and how to do something is important in his role.

Like many of us, Russell had no idea what he wanted to do after he finished school. His career started by identifying that he was good at science in high school. Russell went on to complete an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Biotechnology. After completing Honours in Life Science, Russell took up a job as a Research Assistant at the Institute of Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at The University of Queensland. This role involved supporting the group researchers in doing tissue culture, protein purification and laboratory management. In 2003 Russell joined Invitrogen, where he worked as a technical development scientist and IT Support Technician. This role involved quality control testing and improving manufacturing processes for products as well as managing the IT infrastructure.

Russell firmly believes that there is never only one path to get from A to B. Life always has a way of challenging you, but also provides opportunities that are your choice to accept or not. With the current low grant success rate, Russell feels that often the biggest hurdle in science is to remain employed. His best advice to young people who wish to pursue a career in science is “If you choose to do science, be passionate and persistent.”

The support scientists like Russell provide to various researchers benefits them and their work in a number of ways. Now, when you read or hear about scientific discoveries, perhaps you’ll send a thank you to the scientists like Russell – those that are behind the scenes, providing a support base. In helping share Russell’s story, GRIDD hopes that you can help them celebrate his contributions to research at the institute.

Judges’ Feedback

“I really like the fast-paced writing style of this author, they have nailed conversational tone.”

“Love the topic choice and the writing style is excellent. A nice piece with good quotes and a well-told story overall.”

“This is a nice feature article on the unsung heroes in science. They certainly deserve their time in the spotlight, that this story tries to accomplish by focusing on Russell’s story. They did a nice job emphasizing their importance of their role in helping to ensure the accuracy of scientific results and the safety of the working environment.”