Monday 8 March is International Women’s Day.
This year’s theme of ‘Choose to Challenge’ was a great excuse to seek out and celebrate Juliette Harley, a PhD candidate at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse who lends her incredible talents to two entirely different worlds – our VectorLab team, and the hockey field – the unicycle hockey field, to be precise.
In the world of science, Juliette is a year into her PhD, which focusses on plasma physics in cancer treatment.
Juliette explains: “I’m working on a different kind of cancer treatment that imparts part of the active agent of radiation into a solution, and we use that solution to treat cancer cells and see how well they die.
“With radiation therapy, the cells get killed in two ways – there’s the direct damage, where the DNA strands break, but the radiation also makes reactive molecules around the cells. So we are putting those reactive molecules on cancer cells to see how effectively they kill the cells.
“I love working in VectorLab – it’s great to see the biology side and the radiobiology side, but also the patient focus and driving our discovery to what happens in the clinics.
“I love lab work, doing research and producing quality information. If I could stay in the lab as a researcher that would be a dream come true, no matter where that takes me – cancer research or something else with plasma research.”
Juliette discovered her other love – the unicycle – six years ago, through her university’s Circus Society.
“Learning to ride the unicycle was like learning to ride a bike again, but instead of worrying about falling sideways, you have to worry about falling backwards and forwards as well!”
Juliette quickly became so proficient she started unicycle racing – until one day when a friend introduced her to the little-known sport of unicycle hockey.
“It’s so much fun. The teams are mixed ages and genders – the oldest player on my team is 65 and the youngest is just 13. It brings such a variety of people together.”
As she reflects on gender equality, Juliette says that the biggest lesson to be learned comes not from the lab, but from the hockey field.
“Playing on a mixed team really highlights gender equality. It shows how well things can work when everyone is assessed and treated based solely on skill level, rather than age, gender or appearance.
It’s about what each individual brings to the table, and I think more areas of life should be like that.”