MEJ Masthead

Future Generation: Tara Boulding

Emma Macdonald

Tara Boulding is part of the ground-breaking University of Canberra research team developing new treatments for breast cancer.

Led and mentored by Professor Sudha Rao, herself a rising international hope in the fight against cancer, Tara devotes her waking hours to research focused on understanding proteins that promote breast cancer stem cells and the formation of tumours.

The aim is to halt the recurrence of breast and other aggressive cancers as well as come up with innovative therapies to improve cancer patients’ quality of life.

The 25-year-old early career researcher was recently awarded the inaugural Melanie Swan Cancer Research Fellowship to support her vital work.

Attributing her interest in science to brilliant and enthusiastic science teachers at St Mary MacKillop College, Tara met Sudha during her undergraduate years and has not looked back. She will complete her PhD this year buoyed by research results that look “very exciting”.

What attracts you to science?

Two things attract me to science as an interest, and science as a career. Firstly, the critical thinking and constant problem solving that’s required on a day-to-day basis; and secondly, being able to do work that may one day contribute to improving the health of someone who is suffering from a disease such as cancer.

Why do you think so few women take up a career in scientific research?

I think perhaps a career in science was once thought to be a male-only field.  Slowly as more women have taken up careers in science, they act as mentors to early-career scientists and they foster an environment in which more women are interested in joining.

I have been fortunate enough to have had a brilliant female supervisor and mentor during my PhD who has been instrumental in helping me achieve what I have to date.

Do you feel the pressure to make a breakthrough in cancer treatment as soon as possible?

I do. There is a lot of pressure to work as fast and productively as possible as cancer research is extremely competitive and we want treatment options to be available to patients as soon as possible.

The Melanie Swan fellowship is in honour of a mother with two young girls who last year lost her battle to breast cancer. Do you ever feel emotional or distressed to be working in a field which is marked by so much loss and sadness?

It can be quite emotional and distressing, especially when meeting patients or families of people who have suffered from cancer. However, it can also be extremely motivating knowing that the work we do daily may soon be translated into viable treatment options for those with breast cancer.

Read the entire Future Generation series here

Photography by Martin Ollman

This article originally appeared as part of our Future Generation editorial in Magazine: Future for Winter 2017, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here



Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author