Unique Scientist: Felicia Schlotthauer

Time to meet Felicia Schlotthauer (She/her)! Felicia is a molecular virologist working towards her PhD at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, Australia! [And thanks for rocking the #UniqueScientists tshirt!]

What kind of scientist are you?
I’m a virologist/molecular biologist. Currently I study the glycoproteins of Hepatitis C and a related rodent virus. Since Hepatitis C is hard to study in in vivo models, I am hoping that the related rodent virus could teach us more about the correlates of protection for hepaciviruses. Understanding this hopefully can aid the design of a prophylactic vaccine.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I had an awesome chemistry teacher in high school and my aunt was a chemist, so I initially wanted to become a chemist. I studied a bachelor in Molecular Life Science, learning quite broadly across the sciences with a focus on molecular studies. My bachelor thesis I did in the virology department on Hepatitis C and fell in love with virology. For my masters I wanted to go more in the direction of translational research, so I did a masters in Infection Biology. I became super interested in viral infections, how such tiny things can cause so much damage and how we can protect ourselves from infection. I found my dream PhD topic (Hep C and vaccine development) in Australia, applied, never thought I would get a scholarship and but now here I am…the best thing that happened to me!

“I hope I can inspire younger generations, that being a scientist is not about the way you dress, or what you do outside of science.”

Felicia Schlotthauer

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
Funny enough most of my friends have always seen me as a scientist, whereas I struggled with the idea for a while. I thought to be a scientist I had to be a certain way, which for me meant not being what is conceived as girly. With moving countries and starting my PhD I luckily realised that there is no one way to be a scientist and it’s okay to be my unique self. I hope I can inspire younger generations, that being a scientist is not about the way you dress, or what you do outside of science (see below)!

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I am a really active person outside of work – I am a runner and will do my first marathon this year. Also took up Aerial Hoop (love being upside down) and Pole Dancing, absolutely loving both. Being afraid of wearing heels, pole seems an odd choice, but I swear pole heels are the best heels I have ever worn.

When I’m not active I love exploring book shops and sticking my nose into a new book. You could call me a book nerd. I’m a plant mum and moved to a place where I have my own little courtyard this year, so have been busy extending my collection of plants.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I would like to change the attitude people have to work long hours or weekends and the idea to be a scientist there can only be science in your life. I think this is a huge misconception and to be a good scientist, it is important to have a good work-life-balance.

“My dad taught me to believe in myself and that I can do anything I want.”

Felicia Schlotthauer

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
My aunt, who is a chemist and my mum, who is a pharmacist, both gave me a love for science and being curious. My dad taught me to believe in myself and that I can do anything I want.

My master’s thesis supervisor, who first brought the concept of work-life-balance to me, by managing PhD thesis and family life with two little daughters.

My supervisor, Alice, at an industry internship, who is a family mum that cycles to work everyday and is such a passionate person. She inspired me to pursue my dream project and take up cycling to work in Melbourne.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I admitted to myself that I have taken on more than I can handle, which for me is quite a big thing, and asked my supervisor to work from home for two days. I gave a seminar presenting data I obtained during a collaborators visit in the UK, which made me proud to see what I accomplished in a short time in a new lab.

Also found I can still do all my Pole level 1 spins after being away for 6 weeks. Yay 🙂


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