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Audio Ian Frazer describes medical research work, 2008

TLF ID R9381

This is an edited sound recording of Australian medical scientist Ian Frazer outlining some of the joys and frustrations of a career as a medical researcher. One advantage, he says, is that researchers know that many people may benefit from the work they themselves are enjoying, but he warns against a career as a research scientist for anyone who cannot handle routine minor disappointments. Frazer also warns that researchers need to constantly monitor the work of others in the same field. The recording was made in February 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This is an overview by a leading Australian medical scientist of aspects of a career as a scientific researcher. Frazer (1953-) is enthusiastic and overwhelmingly positive about his work. However, he also gives a frank warning that most of the science 'in the real world' does not work as expected or fails for reasons beyond the researchers' control.
  • Frazer contrasts the high failure rate of research science with experiments done in school practical classes. He is making the point that school science demonstrations are designed to be relatively simple and predictable with high 'success' rates. However, research scientists venture into areas that are new and therefore not predictable. He warns that it is 'routine' to experience a degree of disappointment with outcomes.
  • In this recording Frazer provides an insight into the pressure on research scientists to justify their research work so that funding will continue. He says that the competition for funding is now global, and the only way to remain competitive is by being constantly abreast of the work being done by other researchers around the world. He adds that he finds this process both fun and informative but points out that science is now 'very much a 24/7' career.
  • Frazer is best known for the research work that led to the world's first vaccine against cervical cancer. In 1990, he and Jian Zhou (1957-99) were using DNA technology to produce a human papillomavirus (HPV) when they made the discovery that led to the development of the vaccine. Starting in 2007 the Australian Government began providing the vaccine free to all Australian girls and women aged between 12 and 26.
  • In other interviews Frazer has stated that it was 'rather unexpected' to discover that he and Jian Zhou had found a way of 'tricking' the cells, the building blocks of the virus that causes cervical cancer, to assemble themselves into the virus. The discovery meant that enough of the virus could be produced to make into a vaccine on a commercial scale.
  • Frazer is one of Australia's best known scientists, having been named Australian of the Year in 2006. He was born in Scotland and trained as an immunologist there before migrating to Australia in 1981. After working at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne he moved to Brisbane, where he founded the University of Queensland's Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research.
Year level

4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • Science

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Ian Frazer
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
  • Audio
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.