Unique Scientist: Rhiannon Morris

Meet unique scientist Rhiannon Morris (She/her)! Rhi currently lives in Melbourne, Australia where she is a PhD student at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (@Wehi_Research), and she is also from Australia (but Perth)!

What kind of scientist are you?
I am a protein biochemist and crystallographer who studies the regulation cytokine signalling and how when this regulation goes awry things like blood cancers occur.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I had two amazing science teachers in high school that really sparked this interest in me to learn more about the world around us and how our body works. After high school I started my degree in molecular biology, forensic biology and biomedical science and really quickly I just fell in love with understanding how our cells behave or misbehave, how proteins function like little machines in our cells and just anything about what makes us work! And now as part of my PhD I get to make crystals out of proteins and shoot them with X-rays from a particle accelerator… It is really cool!

“The field of crystallography has historically been dominated by men, so as a woman working in this area I feel really privileged and proud to be in a position where I can hopefully inspire younger generations […]”

Rhiannon Morris

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
The field of crystallography has historically been dominated by men, so as a woman working in this area I feel really privileged and proud to be in a position where I can hopefully inspire younger generations to follow in my footsteps and embrace the wonderful world of crystallography and protein biochemistry!

What’s something cool you do outside of work? 
I do a lot of science communication, predominantly on instagram (follow me at @sci.with.rhi) which I really enjoy and have made friends all around the world doing! I also am obsessed with plants, I am a full blown plant mum and I spend a lot of time caring for them and trying to propagate them. I also go bouldering a fair bit… See photo of me hanging upside down for explanation!

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I would change the attitude of people towards overworking. I find that people are proud of the fact they’re stressed and work ridiculous hours. The idea that if you aren’t always stressed then you aren’t working hard enough is a lie. Work-life balance is so important!

“Early in my science journey a lot of people I thought were helping me at the time told me that I wouldn’t do well in science and should consider something else. I am proud that I didn’t listen to them, I pursued my dreams […]”

Rhiannon Morris

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
Honestly, myself! Early in my science journey a lot of people I thought were helping me at the time told me that I wouldn’t do well in science and should consider something else. I am proud that I didn’t listen to them, I pursued my dreams, I worked really hard and in less than a year I will be getting my PhD from one of Australia’s leading research institutes. I remind myself of these things when I am feeling imposter syndrome and remember I have got this and I can do it!
But also my mum, my nan and my great nan – they inspire me to work hard and chase my dreams.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
In the few days I have really started to believe in myself and my abilities as a scientist!
I performed an experiment that I thought of all by myself and it gave us really exciting results. I have also spent time preparing a seminar I am giving about my PhD and it has made me reflect on all the work I have done over the past few years in my PhD and I am proud that I really have made a novel contribution to science! Thats a really cool feeling!

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