Lumen - The University of Adelaide Magazine The University of Adelaide Australia
Lumen Winter 2014 Issue
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1990s Alumni Voice: Dr Ines Atmosukarto

Science course proves an inspiration


Dr Atmosukarto with family at her PhD graduation

Dr Atmosukarto with family at her PhD graduation

Dr Ines Atmosukarto is an internationally recognised scientist who has won numerous awards for research into finding new treatments for cancer and infectious diseases. Now the CEO of medical technology company Lipotek, Dr Atmosukarto graduated from Adelaide with a Bachelor of Science degree with First Class Honours in Biochemistry in 1995 and a PhD in 2002.

"It is hard to believe that more than two decades have passed since that late February 1992 day when our Garuda flight landed in Adelaide. I still remember how I felt so privileged to be one of the high school graduates to receive a prestigious World Bank-funded scholarship - a program spearheaded by the then Indonesian Minister of Research and Technology aimed to enable approximately 120 students to undertake studies overseas before returning home to take up positions in key R&D organisations and strategic government-owned enterprises.

The experience that an overseas student had in Adelaide in the '90s was, I suspect, rather different to what students may have these days. Coming from a crowded city such as Jakarta, the sense of space was most welcome. I immediately decided to take up residence at Aquinas College, a decision I feel made it easier to adjust to life in Australia. It forced me to practice my English and introduced me to Aussie staples - Tim Tams, AFL and cricket - and made me feel part of a community. From those days I have fond memories of sitting on the grass near the River Torrens book in hand, strolling through the Botanical Gardens, Saturday mornings at the Central markets and day trips to Hahndorf and the Barossa.

I had enrolled in a science degree and had my heart set on studying biomedical related subjects which were, at the time, not offered back home. Three years went rapidly and I met my husband who was training to be a commercial airline pilot. I was inspired by young lecturers such as Professor Peter Rathjen of the Department of Biochemistry and decided that biomedical research was my passion.

My first hurdle was to complete an Honours degree at the end of which I was pleased to receive the Brian and Heather Foster award. I frantically applied for a number of scholarships to continue post graduate studies and had to decide between offers made from Adelaide, Melbourne or Canberra. I had fallen in love with Adelaide and decided I liked the lifestyle and what the University had to offer.

Those next four years were busy ones. We were married and had our daughter by the end of my third year. Juggling motherhood and a PhD thesis was surely a memorable experience. As life has it, it is during those tough times that I forged lifetime friendships and built a professional network. The education I received in Adelaide shaped the rest of my life.

Upon returning to Indonesia, I set up and built a research group at the Indonesian Institute of Science and was very fortunate to be the first Indonesian recipient of an international UNESCO-L'Oreal Fellowship for women in science which took me to the USA. This received a lot of interest nationally and served as a stepping stone for the establishment of funding programs to encourage science education and scientific research by women in Indonesia.

It was with great joy that we celebrated the 10th anniversary of these programs last year and it was humbling to meet with the various recipients, most of whom could remember a lot of the interviews I had done to promote science as a fulfilling career. Science has taken me back to Australia where I now run a small biotechnology company and it is hard to believe I am about to see my daughter make her own way in life."

story by Dr Ines Atmosukarto



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