Cassie is a Perth local and completed her PhD-Microbiology from University of Western Australia. Her curiosity of invisible killer microbes drove her to excel in this research field. With training from National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases USA, she designed live influenza vaccines. Her creativity and innovation led to co-founding a company on bird flu vaccine markers. She is passionate about educating people with truths about viruses and the impact of human behaviour on emerging infectious diseases. Cassie inspires girls in STEM and entrepreneurship. She enjoys being a devoted mother to three sons along with her chocolate labrador.

Q&A

1. What is some of the best leadership advice you have been given/seen/read … or that you have to offer personally?  

The best advice is to genuinely care and have rich experience and knowledge in the subject matter to effectively take the lead and motivate others.  To influence people, we need to open their eyes to engagement so they have interest and share the vision. I also find that encouraging others and believing in them is powerfully positive.

 

2. What do you believe is the biggest problem the globe and humanity is facing? 

Right now it is the global spread of pandemic COVID-19 causing severe respiratory disease with fatalities and the ever present threat of other emerging infectious diseases. Although we have grown familiar with the virus, even to the point of fatigue, we now face a new dilemma of public hesitancy towards the vaccination campaigns.

 

3. What are you most proud of in your current work/project/life?

I have been privileged to be given opportunities to teach others in higher education and raise awareness of the combat of infectious microbes with our immune systems. I was honoured to train with the world’s best scientists in the fields of viral immunology at NIH in the design of innovative vaccines against influenza. I can relate to the enormous challenge of developing a career in STEMM alongside raising my children and supporting a growing family.

 

4. What do you think is one of the most important aspects of teaching the next generation of female scientists?

Teaching has to be authentic and come from the heart to have a genuine impact on learners. If done well, it requires tremendous energy and creativity to influence others. I am a visible role model for female scientists and love sharing my stories, especially important for first year students who have just embarked on their university courses. I teach students about compassion for humanity, which is more than just memorising the hard cold facts of science in fields of microbiology and immunology. As females, perhaps our empathy with others drives us to succeed in ventures and dive deeper to understand different facets of problems to solve.  My female students can influence their friends and family, perhaps even teach their own children, how to respect and care for their health in order to enjoy a long full-filled life.

As females our empathy with others drives us to succeed in ventures and dive deeper to understand different facets of problems to solve. Cassandra Berry, immunologist #TeamHB6 

5. Why do you think creativity is so important to scientific inquiry?

Blending creative and critical thinking skills can spark innovative ideas, focussed on solutions to global challenges. Thinking outside the box precipitates new ideas for consideration to change the world. Inspiration helps frame a question in scientific inquiry into a hypothesis, which in turn can be tested by designing a creative research plan. This front end of research design is very important before the actual doing of research and is often underestimated. After writing a successful research proposal, the data collected from the research may support a theory that can be a game changer for the better good.

 

6. What’s one of the biggest myths about the COVID-19 vaccine (and all vaccines for that matter) that you want to bust?

Trust about the benefits of vaccination over the risks of getting SARS-CoV2 itself. Expectations of side effects overshadowing protective effects. The combat against the virus does not stop with the vaccine jab but requires your very own immune system to respond to the vaccine, develop strong anti-viral immunity and long-lived memory.

 

7. How do you think scientists and doctors can go about explaining and encouraging vaccine use to the wider community? What’s the main challenge with this?

Both scientists and doctors can use more simpler language and directly address the common queries of the public to better show that they care about the community.  Otherwise people have little understanding, lose trust, and develop growing fears of the unknown. Of course published data of clinical trials is also important.

 

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