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Friday April 24, 2020


Anne Kelso

Tea or coffee?
Coffee! Black for breakfast and a flat white mid-morning and all is right with the world.
What is your favourite dessert?
Anything with chocolate, one of the essential food groups that deserves its own chapter in NHMRC’s Australian Dietary Guidelines.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Scientist, actually. My best friend in primary school wanted to be a doctor (she is), I wanted to be a scientist and together we were going to cure cancer – a little ambitious! Then when I was about 10, I did a school project on microorganisms and that was it. I decided to be a microbiologist. I stuck with that plan until the end of my BSc when I was distracted by immunology for a few decades. No regrets!
If you weren’t an Immunologist, what would you be?
I’ve often thought it doesn’t matter what field you are in as long as you can hang around somewhere near the frontier. Now, in the time of COVID-19, everyone understands why viruses matter and how infectious diseases, and our immune response to them, can shape human history. What could be more interesting?
What is the best thing about being an ASI Member?
ASI has been very important to me. My first workshop talk as a PhD student was at an ASI meeting – an actual debate with Kevin Lafferty! ASI gave me my first chance to help run a conference, my first executive roles as treasurer then president, then secretary-general of IUIS. These were all great experiences but even more important were the collaborations and friendships.
As the current NHMRC CEO, former Director/CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Vaccine Technology, former Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, and importantly former ASI President (1995-6) and Treasurer (1988-9), you are a true inspiration to many women. In addition, you have been appointed Officer in the Order of Australia, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. 
What are the secrets of your success?
Lasting the distance is a start! I have had time to try a few things out – a regular research career and the usual professional activities, as well as experiments in leadership as opportunities came along. Most of the things you listed followed from the directorship of the CRC for Vaccine Technology. It was my first leadership role outside the lab and I had no idea how I would go. Secrets of success? Maybe willingness to take a risk and realising you don’t need to have all the answers – surround yourself with good people and ask for help.

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