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Aasta Kelly

Research genetic counsellor

ECU

Passion and personal circumstances led Aasta Kelly to not one but two dream jobs in genetic counselling

The path to Aasta’s dream career wasn’t direct. “I couldn’t work out what I wanted to be,” she says. “I left high school and started working, but I knew I wanted to do university – I love learning!”

Aasta started studying occupational therapy but decided it wasn’t for her and wound up working for a human genetics research institute in the UK instead. It was this experience that sparked her initial interest in genetics, but it wasn’t until later, when her second child was born with a rare syndrome, that Aasta’s interest in biological sciences was rekindled.

“It was my son’s geneticist who first put me onto genetic counselling. I knew it was what I wanted to do – I found my dream career at 35!” She enrolled in a Bachelor of Science with a focus on human genetics, at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia. A medical genetics placement, intensive research project and work experience placement during her degree confirmed her chosen path.

“My degree really opened doors for the cool jobs I have now,” Aasta says. “I met people who could see my passions and help guide them, and I was able to tailor the units to suit my interests and goals.”

Talking genes

Now, Aasta has two genetic counselling jobs, both of which she loves. As a research genetic counsellor and project officer at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Perth, she talks to families about suspected genetic conditions, takes medical histories, explains DNA and genetics to them and discusses testing options.

Her other role is as a clinical genetic counsellor for Virtus Diagnostics, an Australian IVF and genetics company. In this job, she talks to people considering using donor eggs or sperm, and couples wanting to know whether they are at risk of passing on a serious genetic condition.

“I feel like I was always meant to be where I am now,” Aasta says of her career. “By understanding rare disease and the impact of it on families, we aim to improve the health and wellbeing of generations to come.”

Aaasta’s study and career pathway

  • Helpdesk coordinator, Henry Wellcome Building for Genomic Research, UK
  • Work experience student, Genetic Services of WA (GSWA)
  • Bachelor of Science (biomedical science), Edith Cowan University
  • Master of Genetic Counselling, UTS
  • Research genetic counsellor, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
  • Clinical genetic counsellor, Virtus Diagnostics

This article was brought to you in partnership with Edith Cowan University and was originally published in Careers with STEM: Science.

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