Dr Joy Rathjen – Bringing the research mojo back

27 October 2022

We are thrilled to introduce Dr Joy Rathjen, our new Director Research and Innovation.

Joy brings impressive acumen to the role, armed with a degree in Biochemistry and Genetics, followed by research training in Adelaide and Oxford, she has been a researcher for most of her life.

“I found a pathway into development biology, using what were then newly discovered Embryonic Stem cells to model the earliest decisions of mammalian life. I worked in this area for more than 25 years and I am proud of what I achieved.”

At the end of 2017, while finishing up at the University of Tasmania, Joy says she felt that her time as a research scientist was closing, and she was looking for new doors to open.

“I have always been passionate about science communication and developing professional skills in research students. While at the University of Tasmania I had several opportunities to follow this interest and, alongside my normal teaching and research role, I developed a relatively unusual teaching practice in these areas – teaching plain language skills and scientific communication skills to all students enrolled in higher degrees (Masters and PhDs) on the Hobart campus.”

“I also had the privilege of teaching industry-based scientists in Papua New Guinea communication and professional skills. It was very much in these areas that I wanted to develop my second career.”

Research management followed quite naturally from these passions, and Joy was fortunate to work with the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, combined with a role in the grants team at The Hospital Research Foundation Group (THRF Group) which she says opened her eyes to the potential and impact of seamless research integration.

“The BHI brings together specialists from all background to create a seamless interface between academic and clinical research, and because the research is largely driven by clinicians, it’s focused on making change.”

Her job was to start, in a very small way, to capture the impact of the science that was being done.

“I used to ask the question – what’s the most exciting thing you’ve done this year? The answers were humbling.”

She says taking on SA Pathology’s newly created Director Research and Innovation role was another natural step in her career.

“I could see in SA Pathology the same passion for patients. Research in SA Pathology is not only excellent and rigorous, but also focused on finding evidence-based solutions for real-life clinical need.”

“As I talk with SA Pathology researchers I hear, repeatedly, that they do this work to make a difference for patients and to make a difference for South Australia. I simply want to help this mission in any way I can because it is so important.”

Joy’s goal is clear – to help SA Pathology embed a thriving research business within the diagnostic service and to be able to describe this research in terms of its outcomes in improving health care and the impact this has for South Australians.

She says her first step is to identify and strengthen SA Pathology’s collaborative research partnerships.

“SA Pathology is founded on an extraordinarily rich research history, it lost its way for a moment, but it’ll get its mojo back. SA Pathology’s history is amazing, and it’s justifiably a really proud history.”

She believes the organisation showed what it’s capable of through the pandemic and is proud that it will be the pathology provider of the future for all South Australians.

“I’m really looking forward to working to working with everyone to advance SA Pathology’s research potential.”

“I invite anyone to reach out to me if they want to talk about research. If you have a research question, idea or problem, I'm here to help.”

Welcome Joy!

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