Esther Tantsis, PhD, MBBS, BMedSci

Multiple sclerosis and related CNS demyelinating disorders

I am currently a neurology fellow working part-time. I have almost completed my neurology training. Having just completed my PhD I am now furthering my interest in demyelinating disorders of the optic nerve and the relevance of MOG antibodies. I don’t have a formal academic title but I do teach on a weekly basis and enjoy it immensely.

Interview by Russell Dale


You have just got your PhD. Yeh!!! Super congratulations. I am very proud of you. Tell us about your PhD journey!

Well just to keep things interesting in 2008 I was pregnant, started my advanced training in Paediatric neurology and also started my research initially as an MPhil (and later converted to a PhD). This was tricky with two pregnant pauses and working part-time and it was kind of like have 3-part-time jobs – and each job was a tad difficult to constrain to its 15 hour limit. I did my research mostly part-time apart from 18months of full-time research leading up to submission. Overall it was a satisfying and rewarding journey. I learnt so much about my topic, neurology in general, research, stats (which I never liked before), paper writing and most importantly – how to get lots of work done in small pockets of time!


What is the main skill you have learnt in your PhD?

I think being well-read on your topic is really important – this does come with time but knowing my topic well and the literature well, made what I was doing more purposeful and enjoyable. It also made writing up a lot easier. I think my stats skill have definitely improved 100 fold. I feel confident in what I do – although there are times that my computer and I were definitely NOT friends.


How will you continue a research activity in your future clinical role? Share with us the difficulties and challenges you foresee.

I have a few unanswered questions in my area of interest and related to my field of interest. I will be doing a couple of follow on projects as well. Most importantly however I would like a new challenge but I’m undecided as to the topic! Post-doc… Hmmm…


What is the hardest thing about doing a PhD?

Balance. If there are more than many things pulling your attention ie family, work, research – it becomes tricky to maintain that balance. Part of the problem is of course funding – it would be nice to see better funding and support towards research. Thankfully I had a very supportive department and supervisor and managed to find some balance in the chaos.


Your family live on a farm. Tell us about it…

I grew on a poultry and peach orchard farm on the central coast and my parents still live there. It was lots of fun growing up being able to build tree houses, te-pees, have peach fights with foam boxes (soft rotting peaches mind you), swimming in the dam, driving tractors and pretend to go bush walking/rock climbing like the Layland brothers (don’t ask). I still love going back there for the tranquility it brings and there’s nothing quite like a starry night then when you sit below an open sky with no obscuration from city lights!!!