Rhiannon Morris

Rhiannon Morris, PhD Candidate
Structural Biology, Cancer & Haematology, Molecular Medicine

Life Inside the Lab

What is your work/research topic? I am a molecular biologist and biochemist and so I study molecules at the smallest of scales. My research currently focuses on understanding the JAK-STAT signalling pathway. Many cytokines act via this pathway so it is involved in a broad range of cellular processes in many cell types. When things go wrong and you have aberrant signalling, diseases, cancers and malignancies may arise making it important to fully understand the biology this pathway.

What was your best day of science? Probably the day I finished my honours degree. It was a really tough year and I was very happy to have made it through to the end with such a great group of friends.

Rhiannon Morris is a PhD Candidate at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia. You can follow along with her science on Twitter at @RheeMor

morris_r1What was your worst day in science? There were many days leading up to my thesis due date where I was still scrambling to get together some more results, a lot of those days were really bad as I was working 12-14 hour days and was so stressed. So any of those days were probably my worst.

What did/are you study at university? I did my bachelor of science in molecular biology with a minor in forensic biology at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia and then moved to Melbourne in Victoria, Australia to complete my honours degree at the University of Melbourne through the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. I am now beginning my PhD in 2017 at the University of Melbourne through the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

What are some of the highlights of your career right now? Finishing my BSc with honours with a H1 and then being accepted into my PhD course with a scholarship at one of Australia’s leading medical research institutes!

Life Outside of Lab

Where did you grow up? In Perth, Western Australia.

What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? I was accepted into my high school as a specialist arts student in ballet, so I thought I would be a dancer.

What do you do to relax outside of lab? Go out for drinks with friends or lay in bed and watch Netflix. I’m a bit of a workaholic though so often I read or write science stuff too.

Big Picture

Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? I had two teachers in high school who were amazing and they made me love science. By the time I finished high school I knew I wanted to do biomedical research so I went into a biomedical science degree at university.morris

What was your biggest challenge during your degree? I have always struggled with imposter syndrome. I always feel like I shouldn’t be here and that I’m I’m not smart enough. Although people say that never goes away, so perhaps that’s always going to be one of the biggest challenges.

Rhiannon Morris presenting her undergraduate research at the combined Biological Sciences Meeting of Western Australia.

What was your biggest motivation to obtain your PhD? Since starting my BSc I have wanted my PhD, but was told by some people that I would never make it that far. Now I’m just hoping to reach my dream and prove those people wrong! Being told you can’t do something is a surprisingly good motivator.

Who in STEM inspires you? Many people inspire me including both of my wonderful supervisors and all my friends at the institute. If I had to pick though, two of the lab heads at my institute, Dr. Misty Jenkins and Dr. Melissa Call, are the two people who come to mind. They are great examples of female scientists and both of them inspire me to work hard and believe in myself!

What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Never let anybody tell you that you can’t do science! If you put your mind to it, you will get there. Also to surround yourself with people who support you and want you to succeed. A good support network and a lot of mentors can help a lot.


What is your favorite book? That’s tough, but I really enjoyed Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution. Lane writes so well.
What would you listen to while writing? Daft punk Alive 2007! It’s what I listen to when I need to get things done.
What was your favorite subject in high school? Science (duh)!
Organization nut, or curated chaos? Bit of both. Curated chaos disguised as organized.
What color socks are you wearing? I don’t have socks on! It is summer in Australia, too hot for shoes that need socks!

Contact Rhiannon on Twitter @RheeMor