Unique Scientist: Dr. Jac Charlesworth

Let’s welcome Dr. Jac Charlesworth (She/her) to our family! Dr. Charlesworth is a computational geneticist at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania in Australia!

What kind of scientist are you?
I’m a computational geneticist. I sequence the genomes of families with multiple sclerosis to try and find genes that influence the neurodegeneration component so that we can find better drugs that don’t involve switching off the immune system!

What made you want to become a scientist?
My best friend got really sick when I was in primary school and I wanted to make her better. Plus they broke it to me that “dragon” wasn’t a career option.

“I’m a gay girl called Jac with short hair – you wouldn’t believe how often I get called Sir, or had people add random extra syllables to my name to make it more ‘appropriately feminine’.”

Dr. Jac Charlesworth

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I’m a gay girl called Jac with short hair – you wouldn’t believe how often I get called Sir, or had people add random extra syllables to my name to make it more ‘appropriately feminine’.

When look back to my postdoctoral research, which I did in Texas, they really had minimal issues with the fact that I was gay, female or had short spiky hair… No, the biggest hurdle was with the fact that my name was Jac. No it isn’t short for anything – just Jac!

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
When I get time I draw or paint – quirky anime creatures mostly – and lately I’ve started making Wintercroft masks. I am OBSESSED with computer games and I also love to cook, the more complicated the better. My favourite thing is to eat some incredible dish and then attempt to recreate it, but I’m also working my way through all the different regional cuisines (I’m on Korean now).

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I’d make it much easier to share the outcomes of research – either so that everyone immediately knew the outcome of each experiment (total sci-fi) or so that all publications were unified into some central system that wasn’t behind a paywall. Basically a giant bioRx rather than a bunch of journals, with citations as the metrics.

“I’d make it much easier to share the outcomes of research […] so that all publications were unified into some central system that wasn’t behind a paywall.”

Dr. Jac Charlesworth

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
Three people. My PhD supervisor Michele Sale, who recently lost her fight against cancer, way too young, but she always had an amazing curiosity and drive and she helped me find that spark. One of my best friends and my scientific partner in crime Kathryn Burdon who inspires me every day – she is a total powerhouse and proves that kindness and humanity don’t have to be sacrificed to become a successful academic, supervisor or researcher. And finally Nicholas Blackburn my ex-PhD student now amazing #uniquescientist in his own right – he reminds me how far I’ve come and that I need to keep fighting.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I rescued a snake out of the pool just before it drowned…


#WomenInSTEM, #QueerInSTEM

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