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Lieutenant Michelle Rourke

Lieutenant Michelle Rourke
Science has always been a passion for Army Lieutenant Michelle Rourke. Now she spends most of her time monitoring dengue infections in Defence members who are deployed to Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands on a career path she would never have imagined.

After studying a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts at the Australian National University, Michelle wanted a change. She took a leap and moved from her home town of Canberra to the warmer climate of Darwin in late 2007 and lived with a friend who had joined the Army. 

Fresh out of university, Michelle faced difficulty that many university students face: securing a job related to your tertiary background. With most potential employers preferring candidates with two or three years experience in the field, Michelle found herself consider what was initially an unlikely career choice; a career in the Army. 

“This was the first time I considered an Army career. I realised that in a lot of ways it was a standard sort of job but with more excitement,” Michelle said. 

Michelle joined the Army in 2009, became Lieutenant Michelle Rourke, and moved into the lines at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane. Her first posting was to the 2nd Health Support Battalion (2HSB) as a Scientific Officer (Pathology). 

Michelle, with her passion for scientific research, found out there was a research institute about 100 metres up the road from 2HSB and instantly knew that was where she wanted to go. 

Her wish was soon granted and the hospital helped her to organise a three month detachment to the Army Malaria Institute (AMI). 

“For me, this was an opportunity to learn the ropes and see if I was suited to a career in research,” Michelle explained. 

She was officially posted to the AMI in January 2010 as a Scientific Officer (Research) in the Arbovirology Department and works alongside a Reservist Officer Commanding, who is a renowned virologist and academic with a long standing interest in mosquito-borne viruses in Australia and the Asia Pacific region. 

Career development, in both the military and scientific streams, has been an important aspect for Michelle in her Army career. During her time at AMI she obtained her (First Class) Honours Degree in Applied Science at Queensland University of Technology and a Graduate Certificate in Biostatistics at the University of Queensland. 

“In addition to identifying dengue viruses infecting deployed personnel, I have studied the evolution of Ross River virus and shown that it doesn’t change anywhere near as quickly as the influenza viruses do. This suggests that the Ross River virus vaccine that AMI has helped evaluate is not likely to have any problems protecting people against infection with all strains of this virus,” Michelle said. 

Michelle has found a home in Army. 

“Now I can’t think of a single job that I’d rather be doing. I have somehow managed to land a job that combines my love of genetics, evolution and microbes and has practical implications for the defence force! 

“Even though I am unlikely to ever deploy or perform a combat type role, I am very proud to be serving in the Australian Defence Force and doing my little bit in keeping our guys safe while on exercise and deployment,” she said. 

“In the Army I get to participate in lots of great activities. I’ve played in the Australian Defence Force Netball competition and had training in urban operations as part of ‘Infantry Minor Tactics’ at Singleton,” Michelle said.

Last updated
17 January 2017
Army: Courage. Initiative. Respect. Teamwork.
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