PROFESSOR SALLY DUNWOODIE
CLASS OF 1988

 

Since at Queenwood women held the power, I believed that I could take control of my own destiny and forge my career, without fear. I am grateful to Queenwood for showing me the way.

 
Professor Dunwoodie is a world-leading researcher whose discoveries are helping prevent birth defects and miscarriages. Her recent work has been described as the most significant breakthrough in pregnancy work this century.

I am a biologist and my research covers the areas of embryology, genetics, biochemistry and cell biology. I also have the good fortune to be working at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. My quest is to understand which of the 20,000 genes, present in all our cells, are required to build the heart in a developing embryo, and which of these are altered (or mutated) in babies born with heart defects.

I love this research because it’s creative, it’s challenging and, most importantly, it’s necessary. I am forever learning, adapting and pushing myself and my team to seek new opportunities that will advance our research.

I spend a lot of time outside my comfort zone. Currently, we are doing something that I never imagined would be possible. We are sequencing the genome (reading the genetic code of all 6 billion pieces of DNA) in families with heart defects to find the one change that has affected the baby’s heart. We are making discoveries and it’s very, very exciting. Think about what it is that Queenwood can teach your daughter.

Today, women can do everything in the workforce. When I was growing up this wasn’t the case. Women were not well represented in all careers and certainly were not at the top of these careers. But they were doing everything at Queenwood. The Principal, every teacher, all the support staff - yes, you guessed it - they were women. Since at Queenwood women held the power, I believed that I could take control of my own destiny and forge my career, without fear. I am grateful to Queenwood for showing me the way. The school goes beyond helping your daughter achieve excellent academic results. She will be exposed to opportunities that enable her to learn more broadly. She will have greater control over her own destiny.

People rarely reach the top quickly, or by chance. When I was young and looked at high achievers, leaders in industry, academia or the arts, I thought they held positions unobtainable to the average person and to me. What I have learnt is that these ‘unobtainable positions’ don’t just appear out of nowhere, and that they are not just the domain of the brilliant few - rather they are achieved with consistent effort and dedication over a long period of time.

If you work in an area that you love - it might be caring for others, designing buildings, fighting injustice, educating others - then hard work and dedication applied over years comes more easily and becomes very rewarding. I feel so grateful that I love my work, because this has meant that long hours and a consistent effort over years has not been a chore. I should add that it has not necessarily been easy! If we love what we do then we will be happiest and we can make the greatest contribution. It is our responsibility to work at what we are good at, for both ourselves and for our community.

To learn more about the work of Professor Dunwoodie, please click here.