Doctor of Philosophy student
"I treated it as a 9-5 job!" says Gina Samaan of her PhD in Epidemiology, which she completed in just over two years. "I was committed to my schedule and just got straight to business."
Prior to starting her PhD, Gina was working with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Indonesia to help control the spread of the avian influenza H5N1 virus. One of the reasons Gina thinks she was able to complete the program quickly was her prior planning. "I had been planning the PhD prior to enrolment. I had some research arise from my work with WHO, liaised with my supervisors to define my research question and I approached the appropriate Indonesian authorities to receive their permission and support for the research."
Gina investigated the how avian influenza H5N1 virus (also known as bird flu) spreads to humans, and how the virus is transmitted in traditional live bird markets in Indonesia. "Understanding avian influenza H5N1 is important," she says. "It is an emerging subtype of influenza that has two of the three 'ingredients' that may trigger a pandemic - the virus is novel, so we don't have immunity, and it can cause infection in humans. However, the virus still does not transmit efficiently between people."
Having previously completed her Masters in Applied Epidemiology at NCEPH, Gina decided to pursue her PhD at the same centre. "NCEPH is a great place for researchers and students. I felt that the PhD program structure and the flexibility offered to students was excellent. It is definitely a great place for young or mature researchers who come with experience."
Gina received a 2010 Prime Minister’s Australia-Asia Endeavour Award which allowed her to undertake part of her PhD in Indonesia. Even though she was often far from campus, Gina still felt supported throughout her PhD.
"ANU supported my application for the Endeavor Award, which reflects their support for student research," she says. "But on top of that, I had lots of support to conduct studies that involved mathematical modeling and laboratory testing. The ANU online library is an amazing resource, especially for external students. I received training in good research practice and support in completing my ethics application. I also mingled with a number of other PhD students and shared experiences and lessons learnt. That was very helpful at each milestone during the PhD."
Gina chose to do a PhD by publication, which meant her assessment was based on her work being published in international peer review journals, rather than a thesis. "This avenue is much more exciting than a thesis," says Gina. "It allows students to showcase their work immediately as part of the PhD process. Few universities offer this PhD by publication option and I think it is great to have it on offer at the ANU!"
Now back in Indonesia heading up the influenza division for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gina is glad to be back in the field. "It is great being back in Indonesia and with a whole new skill-set!"