Taking science out of the lab and into the world –
with Marianne Haines
Marianne Haines, 2018 Origin Foundation John Monash Scholar
PhD in Microbiology at the University of Calgary, Canada
Marianne Haines grew up on a farm in regional Victoria. After completing secondary school and obtaining her Victorian Certificate of Education, she commenced a degree in design, stopped and became a professional personal trainer, embarked on a degree in veterinary science and then finally discovered a love for microbiology. For Marianne, taking the long road to discover her ideal career was well worth the wait, as the skills she developed along the way help her to this day. This includes her application and subsequent award of the 2018 Origin Foundation John Monash Scholarship.
With her John Monash Scholarship, Marianne is now a PhD candidate at the University of Calgary. Her research focuses on developing sustainable and circular products and processes. Microbes play a big part in sustainability as they have huge potential in biotechnology. Marianne has a background in biochemistry and microbiology. Her research career began working with microbes known as electrotrophs and electricigens in microbial fuel cells. Now her focus is on outdoor cultivation of cyanobacteria at scale. These cyanobacteria can be converted to products like methane as well as value-added products like the natural blue pigment, phycocyanin, which can be used to colour food, dye clothes, or improve medicines that treat cancer amongst other conditions.
With the end of her PhD drawing closer, Marianne has her eyes on the finish line and has a much broader understanding of how scientific research can be interdisciplinary. Her PhD training has allowed her to explore aspects of microbiology from a molecular scale to an engineered system of over 3,000 litres. Scaling technology in an economic and sustainable way is the key to taking science out of the laboratory and into the real world. Marianne is passionate about working at this cross-section of academia and industry to ensure new sustainable, low carbon production platforms are successfully integrated into society.
The University of Calgary is the perfect place for this work. Calgary is Canada’s largest oil and gas province where a lot of people’s livelihoods are based in the fossil-fuel industry. The Mayor of Calgary has recently declared the city in a state of climate emergency. This province treads a fine balance to ensure they can transition to cleaner, greener methods of living while also improving the job and economic opportunities for all residents. The University of Calgary is a key player in this transition as it supports its visionary scientists to develop entrepreneurial mindsets to take technology out of the laboratories and convert them into viable businesses.
Four colleagues of Marianne’s have demonstrated this through their startup business: Synergia Biotech. Here, Marianne currently supports the Pilot Plant Operations & Development team. Watching this industry venture develop has exposed her to the process of launching lab-based research into the industry. This opportunity has been a dream come true as it has expanded her community of like-minded individuals who are passionate about finding positive strategies for tackling the global issue of climate change and entrenching real solutions into communities.
The Origin Energy Foundation has been a long-term partner of the General Sir John Monash Foundation, funding scholarships for 8 years in the areas of Sustainability and Engineering.
They believe in the power of education to help create better lives for young Australians.