Married to the job
One of the talented people in Simon’s team is Dr Vanessa Conn. The husband and wife team met while studying at Flinders University and have shared their research experience in laboratories in South Australia and France ever since. It’s not something they can ever switch off in their lives. When they started out researching molecular biology in plants, they had a rule that they’d stop talking about work the moment they reached a point on the way to the car park. Now, their love for the work means that they don’t feel the need to stop sharing their ideas. They’ve even brought their primary school-aged children into the lab to see how it all works. When Simon and Vanessa were studying plants, the kids were not so interested. Now they proudly tell their friends and teachers how Mum and Dad are curing cancer.
For Simon, the reality of being a cancer researcher is feeling guilty when you can’t help someone who is going through the worst. He says the hardest part of that is watching parents lose their children. Because of his friend, he always wanted to work on brain cancer. But a chance observation now has Simon expanding his research to leukaemia, with a focus on young children.
When asked what Simon would do to celebrate developing a blood test for cancer—either brain cancer or leukaemia—he says, ‘I’d start looking at other cancers.’ Although he does admit to being superbly placed for celebration; his house is filled with champagne thanks to three years of working in France. He goes on to say he wouldn’t celebrate until he hears from people who’d benefitted, whose lives he and his wife have saved, and even then, he wouldn’t really need any richer reward.