February 11, 2018  Print

Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day organised by the United Nations (UN). In celebration of the theme ‘Equality and Parity in Science for Peace and Development’, we have profiled Associate Professor Sarah Palmer.

Associate Professor Palmer is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Virus Research at the Westmead Institute. Her research group, the HIV Reservoir Group, is investigating where HIV ‘hides’ in the body, and how it can be purged from cells to cure patients. Her research offers hope to the 36.7million people living with HIV globally.  

Associate Professor Sarah Palmer

Associate Professor Palmer entered HIV research after learning the realities of the HIV epidemic in Kenya.

“I was visiting my parents in Kenya, and was hearing news of teenagers dying of pneumonia. My parents pointed out they were actually dying of HIV, though it was not reported due to the stigma. I wanted to do something about this infectious disease,” she said.

Although rates of new infections have declined on a global scale, AIDS is now the leading cause of death among teenagers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sarah’s involvement in the field is an important contribution in combatting the HIV epidemic, and achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of good health and well-being.

Associate Professor Palmer has made impressive contributions to HIV research throughout her career. She notes the development of the world’s most sensitive single-copy assay, a gold standard in HIV research, as a career highlight. The assay can detect extremely small quantities of the virus, improving our knowledge about HIV and the effectiveness of therapies.

Associate Professor Palmer currently works with a team of nine women.

“My team is very talented, and I’m very honoured to have them. It is a positive thing to see these young women involved in science and making such important contributions to research.

 “Women are making major contributions to scientific research and we need to encourage even greater participation,” she said.

Professor Tony Cunningham

Executive Director Professor Tony Cunningham said he was proud of the achievements that women at the Westmead Institute have made.

“We are extremely proud of the women at the Westmead Institute, and the exceptional contributions they make in science, and the impact their research will have on a global scale,” he said.

 “We are committed to closing the gender gap in STEM, and creating opportunities for women to enter and continue their careers in research.”