2020 Westpac Future Leaders Scholar’s Balancing Act

Shanna Hosking

Photo credit: Flashpoint Labs

Caring for newborn kittens, bunnies and injured wildlife while studying Reproductive Immunology full-time at the University of Adelaide keeps PhD candidate Shanna Hosking busy.

 “I think this folded my love for people, love for helping and contributing to society into this PhD in medicine that I’ve just started,” she said.

Shanna has been multitasking from a young age, incorporating her passion for animals, people and research through volunteer positions and part-time jobs. 

“I do a lot of volunteer work. When I was 14 years old, I joined Fauna Rescue, and more recently the RSPCA, to foster newborn kittens, bunnies, birds, also injured and stray wildlife.”

In 2018, the Alumna completed a Bachelor of Science and, out of curiosity, moved onto an Honours degree to experience a lab environment.

“When I got into honours and loved it, I decided I really wanted to do a PhD and earning this prestigious scholarship gave me the ability to not put off huge life experiences needed to take on this role,”Shanna Hosking

When Shanna received an email about the prestigious Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship, she immediately dismissed it. 

“I thought, that’s not me. But I met up for coffee with Alexandra Procter, a previous recipient, and she said be honest, be yourself, it’s a rewarding application experience even if you don’t get the scholarship. She kicked me into gear and got me to apply,” she said.

Earlier this year, the 24 year old was awarded a Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship. The scholarship, valued at $120,000 over three years, is designed to develop leadership potential in tomorrow’s leaders, and includes a nine-month bespoke Leadership Development Program and the opportunity to spend up to six months abroad to gain global experience.  

“The program has changed my attitude towards the PhD as a whole. It helped me learn to use self-direction and leadership more efficiently to direct my study.”

Shanna’s research with the Adelaide Medical School and Robinson Research Institute focuses on early origins of health, pregnancy and the interaction with the immune system.

“We don’t really understand very much about the detailed interactions of why women can get pregnant and their immune system doesn’t reject the foetus. Pregnancy is a really specific and wonderful example of how the immune system can adapt and change to basically take on a foetus to support it to thrive and flourish.”

Shanna is interested in the alarming trend among women with pre-eclampsia in lower socio-economic areas.

“Pre-eclampsia is much more common among women in lower socio-economic regions. It’s a complicated illness and lots of factors contribute, immune system is one, but it’s also nutrition and lifestyle choices.

“I hope in my PhD to take this information and share it and make people more aware of what makes someone higher risk than another person, and what we can do to prevent this gap,” she continued.

The inspiring scholar is passionate about her topic and following her PhD, wishes to continue her research.

“Being a Westpac Future Leader gives you the self confidence that someone else believes that you have the capability to change the world.”

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