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Meet our brilliant minds: Darren Suryawijaya

What is your role at MCRI?

I am a Research Assistant with the Vaccine Uptake and Asia-Pacific Health Groups within the Infection & Immunity Theme, and a Project Coordinator for the Centre of Research Excellence: Pneumococcal Disease Control in the Asia-Pacific (CRE-PDC).

Tell us about your journey in getting to where you are today as a researcher here at MCRI?

I completed my biomedical degree at the University of Melbourne in 2018, with an Honours year supervised by the New Vaccines Group. My project focused on developing a model of respiratory syncytial virus infection to assess inhaled therapeutics. I then worked as a Research Assistant with the Enteric Diseases Group as part of a team assessing the RV3 rotavirus vaccine in a Phase II trial conducted in Malawi.

What research are you undertaking here at the MCRI and what you are hoping to make possible for children & families through the work that you’re doing?

This year, my work has primarily been on COVID-19! I was part of a team looking at the intentions of Victorian healthcare workers and other prioritised adults in getting a COVID-19 vaccine. We were able to use the study findings to form recommendations for vaccine communication strategies. I am currently involved in a study investigating COVID-19 school outbreaks. We look at the transmission patterns of the virus, the immunological responses following infection, as well as the social impacts that an outbreak has on the school community. I hope that these efforts can contribute to ending the pandemic.

As Project Coordinator for the CRE-PDC, I work with a multinational and multidisciplinary team trying to address outstanding issues about pneumococcal conjugate vaccines and to ensure that findings are translated into policy and action. My role involves a lot of numbers and legal words that sometimes it becomes all blurry! I hope that this work will allow more children from resource-poor settings to access life-saving vaccinations.

What excites you most about working in this field/child health?

Working in child health research is most exciting because you know that your work helps to provide every child with the opportunity to have the best start in life, regardless of where they come from!

Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of MCRI?

You would probably find me feeding my cats, making a mess in the kitchen or having a meal somewhere in the city. ABC Chicken for the best Korean fried chicken, Dodee Paidang for the best Thai soft-shell crab curry, Sulhwa for the best bingsoo (shaved ice dessert) – you can thank me later!