Megan Munsie, PhD
Jul 9, 2021
Hometown: Gold Coast, Australia
Current residence: Melbourne, Australia
Graduate degree: PhD, Monash University, Australia
Current position: Professor - Ethics, Education & Policy in Stem Cell Science, School of Biomedical Sciences and Melbourne Medical School, University of Melbourne; Vice President of Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research
What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work?
My main research focus is on the policies and practices required to foster translation of stem cell discoveries into safe and effective clinical care. I am particularly interested in how patients view access to stem cell interventions and what information they draw upon to inform their views. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work is its breadth and interdisciplinary nature. While my training in developmental biology provided little exposure to humanities, I now work with scholars from across diverse disciplines on a daily basis, greatly enriching my research and its impact. I also feel privileged to work closely with many inspiring individuals and community organisations who make such a difference to the lives of people living with illness and disability.
What led you to become a scientist and to stem cell research?
From my earliest days in high school, I loved science and especially biology. While completing my science undergraduate degree I worked in a pathology lab, then in the late ‘80s landed a job as a trainee clinical embryologist in the then fledgling IVF industry. A desire to do further studies led to a PhD in mouse embryonic stem cells and pluripotency, back at in time when therapeutic cloning (aka somatic cell nuclear transfer) was the only way to explore nuclear reprogramming. Public reaction to my proof-of-concept paper for therapeutic cloning in 2001 led to my last twenty years working at the intersection of policy, ethics, and public understanding of stem cell science.
What is the most exciting aspect of your work?
Contextualising developments in the field and their implications for those curious to know more. This includes policy makers, teachers, students, and members of the broader community. I particularly enjoy working with students who aspire to work in research, and patients and their families who hope to one day benefit from advances in stem cell science.
What guidance would you share in talking with trainees interested in pursuing your area of research?
Get involved. No matter what aspect of stem cell research you work in, there are opportunities to participate in discussions about the ethical and societal implications of your work. Start by sharing ideas about the latest developments with colleagues in your lab or maybe your nearest and dearest at home. Perhaps offer to give a talk to your old high school or local community group. Share your knowledge to unravel the often-simplistic news coverage but be prepared to listen to the opinions of others. Also make sure you come along to the Ethics Focus Session at each ISSCR meeting to hear about the latest issues.
Do you have any mentors or individuals who have inspired you in your stem cell work?
I have been extremely fortunate to have many different mentors, many outside science, during my 20+ years in stem cell research. All have inspired and supported me but if I’m forced to name one, I’d nominate John Gurdon. While it would be overstating it to say he was a mentor, John’s original work in frog cloning inspired my PhD, and the opportunity to meet with him as a student and discuss my work was very special.
How do you spend your free time?
Reading. I love losing myself in a good book.
What is something your peers would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a thalassophile. While you won’t find me on a surfboard, my happiest place is by the ocean, preferably in the shade with a book in hand.
What do you most value about your membership with the ISSCR?
Connections. Being a member of ISSCR has enabled me to meet and learn from researchers from across the globe, exposing me to new ideas and providing me with opportunities to make a genuine difference to our field. My association with ISSCR has been absolutely pivotal in how my career has evolved over the last 15 years and my achievements in policy reform and community engagement.
Careers in Industry
Career talks featured at ISSCR’s VISION2030 event, focused on opportunities for a decade ahead.
BlueRock Therapeutics | Career Talks
Panel discussion with Timsi Rao, Scientist III, Genome Sciences and Stephany Sakharny, Senior Human Resources Manager of BlueRock Therapeutics.
STEMCELL Technologies | Career Talks
Panel discussion with Christine Genge, Manager, Recruitment and Nina Quiskamp, Scientist of STEMCELL Technologies.
ElevateBio | Career Talks
Panel discussion with Cherylene Plewa, PhD, VP, Cellular Engineering and Austin Thiel, PhD, Director Stem Cell Biology of ElevateBio.
ISSCR 2020 Virtual Videos
Junior Investigator Career Panel
Finding Your Fit: Defining Goals and Taking Action to Achieve Long-term
Moderator: Evan Graham, ISSCR Junior Investigators Committee, CELLINK
Panelists: Heather Duffy, Creative Innovation Consulting, Steve Kattman, Sana Biotechnology, Danijela Menicanin, University of Adelaide, and Itedale Namro Redwan, CELLINK.
Despite how it can sometimes appear, the path to a satisfying career is rarely straightforward. Are you currently asking yourself “How do I decide on a career path?” If so, join us for an in-depth panel discussion about how individual definitions for success and failure can help you identify your goals, adjust to setbacks, determine when it’s time to make a change, and what steps to take now to achieve your long-term goals. This casual event hosted by the Junior Investigator Committee is intended to foster frank conversation about how to assess career decisions early on.
Early Career Group Leader Panel
Re-Defining the Success of Your Lab in Changing Times: Productivity, Motivation and Enrichment
Moderator: Josh Currie, Co-chair, ISSCR Junior Investigators Committee, Wake Forest University
Panelists: Valentina Greco, Yale Stem Cell Center, Yale Medical School, Konrad Hochedlinger, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Joanna Wysocka, Stanford University.
Even prior to lab shutdowns, you might have often been awake at night feeling anxious about the success of your trainees and your projects. With bench research and much of science at a standstill, how can PIs regain perspective and purpose to re-define a thriving lab? This event is organized for early career PIs to learn tools and tips from more senior ISSCR scientists about how to get the most out of your lab. We will address topics such as setting up a strong lab culture from the beginning, enriching the lab experience to make your team the most productive, and recruiting the best people to improve motivation and promote strong research. Additionally, this event is meant to foster conversation about how to support, motivate, and train lab members under these exceptional circumstances. Come join us to learn, share, and discuss different recipes for a successful lab.