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News > Alumni > Dr Erin Harvey Class of 2011

Dr Erin Harvey Class of 2011

“I knew I wanted to work as a scientist from early in high school and after watching a documentary on viruses in Year 11, I decided I wanted to study virus evolution.”
20 Mar 2024

Dr Erin Harvey graduated from Newcastle Grammar School in 2011. “I knew I wanted to work as a scientist from early in high school and after watching a documentary on viruses in Year 11, I decided I wanted to study virus evolution.”

Erin studied at the University of New South Wales in Advanced Science majoring in Immunology and Medical Microbiology and her honours project was in Genetics at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre with Prof Marcel Dinger. She then commenced her PhD at the University of Sydney in mid 2016 with Prof Edward C Holmes studying Virus Emergence and Evolution in Australia.

Erin took 6 months off between her honours year and PhD to travel, but apart from that, she completed her studies as quickly as possible. “But if I had my time again I would probably take more time off and take things slower.”

She completed her PhD at the University of Sydney with her thesis entitled Using metatranscriptomics to reveal the diversity, ecology and evolution of animal viruses under the supervision of Prof Eddie Holmes, who released the first genomic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19. She continues to work for Professor Holmes as a Postdoctoral Research Associate and her current research is focused on understanding the diversity of viruses in Australian animal species, the impact that humans have on the viruses they carry and identifying any potential disease-causing viruses.

Erin works mainly as a computational biologist so most of her days are spent writing coding pipelines for the analysis of large sequencing datasets. “As a senior postdoc, I need to come up with ideas for research projects and then design the experiments to address my research questions. This often includes fieldwork, and in 2022 I travelled around Western Australia for three weeks going as far north as Shark Bay and as far south as Esperance to collect samples. Some days I will need to do lab work to generate data, working in a PC2 lab to extract the genetic material from the samples I collect. So, my work is quite varied.” She also spends a lot of time writing journal articles and grant applications and putting together presentations for conferences, lectures and seminars about her work.

She also enjoys the travel associated with academia. “In 2023 I went to Valencia, Spain, for a week-long conference, spent two months working as a visiting academic at University of Groningen in the Netherlands and travelled to Glasgow and Berlin for meetings with other scientists.”

“In ten years, I hope to be running my own lab here in Australia to research the evolution of viruses in marsupials and study the impact of human activities on the viromes of native wildlife.”

Some of Erin’s favourite memories from school including being involved in the music department. “The choir was a great community and our trip to China in 2010 was also a big highlight.”

Fun fact: “I’ve described over 100 novel virus species and after running out of ‘scientific’ sounding names, I named the viruses from one study after characters from the Sherlock Holmes stories. And in my next paper, I’ve named the novel viruses after my friends’ nicknames. A colleague named her viruses after Parks and Rec characters.” 

Erin wanted to give a special mention to Ms Ramplin, her Biology teacher in her last year at NGS.

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