Dr Vakulin is a Research Fellow at FHMRI Sleep Health, Flinders University and an affiliate researcher at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and University of Sydney. His broad research interests and expertise are investigating the impact of sleep disorders and sleep loss on day time function and vigilance impairment, particularly in relation to operational performance such as fatigue related motor vehicle and workplace accident risk.
Andrew has a PhD in Medical Sciences from the University of Adelaide and is recipient of the NHMRC R.D. Wright Biomedical Career Development Fellowship until 2022
What led you to an academic career? Was there a seminal moment? As I was finishing high school, I knew I wanted to continue with tertiary studies and I was always interested in science, but was not sure in what field. I felt that studying medical science would be stimulating and challenging and I wouldn’t be bored falling asleep in lectures! Sleep is in fact the area I ended up pursuing after a few lectures on the topic in my 3rd undergrad year. I found sleep and circadian rhythms absolutely fascinating and that was certainly an important pivot in my life and career that has forged my HDR studies and ultimately my career.
Who most inspires you? I strongly believe that a successful academic career consists of hard work and dedication, but also a fair bit of luck! I feel that I have been incredibly fortunate to have had amazing mentors and leaders in the field of sleep medicine and research which I believe have provided me with great opportunities to succeed. During my honours and PhD I have had Dr Stuart Baulk, Prof Doug McEvoy and Prof Peter Catcheside as my supervisors who have provided fantastic guidance, supervision and mentorship for me during that period. During my post-doctoral work, Prof Ron Grunstein has been instrumental in providing the training and growth in my research career in Sydney, which has really provided me with a wider perspective and research leadership skills. Now that I am based back in Adelaide at Flinders University I have amazing mentorship for Prof Danny Eckert, Prof Robert Adams and Prof Peter Catcheside who are enabling and providing incredible support for my research career.
Do you have a mentor? I have many incredible mentors throughout my career in my research field and have more recently got mentorship outside my direct area which is important. For the last 18 months I have had the privilege of mentoring others which has been a very rewarding experience and have taught me the value of collegiality and the importance of mentorship.
What piece of advice would you give to aspiring EMCRs? Be proactive, don’t leave thing to chance. Broaden the scope of your collaborative network and seek out mentors that inspire you and challenge you to succeed, this is most critical. Don’t give up when there is failure and disappointment, which is the norm in academia. Have a thick skin and keep going in the face of challenges.
What do you value most about working at Flinders? I very much value the culture, support, collegiality and commitment to excellence of Flinders University. I believe the University is investing a lot to supporting the future and development of early-mid career researchers, which I feel is critical.
What is your proudest achievement to date at Flinders? Working with an amazing team and beginning to achieve my research goals of translating my research into community and clinical practice, including improved screening, diagnosis and management of sleep disorders.
What is something about yourself others may not know? I love the outdoors. I love snow skiing, water sports, camping and fishing when I have the opportunity.
What’s one thing you couldn’t live without? Work and family balance is absolutely essential to a successful research career. My family and friends have supported me all the way and I cannot see how I would live without this and be where I am today.