Nick Hagan – 1995 IBO
Dr Nick Hagan had an enriching childhood, living in Nigeria for three years, Malaysia for two years, and completing high school in Sydney.
When living in Malaysia, he attended a small school with only eight students and one teacher who often held classes in a beach hut. “My earliest memory of science was learning about marine life whilst sitting in that beach hut made from driftwood and palm leaves!” He says.
Nick took on the Australian Science Olympiad challenge thanks to his Year 11 Biology teacher, Mrs Ellis. “She LOVED her subject and her passion and enthusiasm was infectious,” he says. “She helped a group of us prepare for the ASO section exams by running extra tutorials at lunchtimes.”
After outperforming other students through tough rounds of selection, he competed at the 1995 International Biology Olympiad in Bangkok, Thailand. “The highlight for me was the amazing bond I built with my teammates – and of course the Australian team coming home with one gold and three silver medals,” he says.
Nick’s Olympiad experience inspired him to pursue a science-based career. After graduating high school, he completed an Honours degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Sydney and a PhD in Plant Biotechnology at the Australian National University.
Today, he is the Oncology Business Head at Novartis Pharmaceuticals ANZ, where he helps launch and support new cancer treatments. “I have found working in an area that advances human health to be highly rewarding,” he says. He is also a previous Olympiad tutor and current ASI Board Member.
Nick’s proudest career achievement is leading the launch of Kymriah, the first cell-therapy based cancer treatment in this country. This treatment became broadly available to Australian children with Leukaemia in 2019 and adults with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2020. “In February this year, local manufacturing of these engineered T-cells commenced at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, generating over 100 jobs for Australian scientists,” he says.
Nick encourages all students with an interest in science to consider a career in STEM as it is the language of innovation and has many applications. “Be comfortable that you are not limited to one field and can use STEM skills across a broad range of industries and job types,” he says.
Nick is very grateful for the opportunities ASI gave him. “My time as a student at the Science Olympiads influenced my career and personal development in many ways,” he says. “I count myself very lucky to have worked with such an inspiring group of students and staff.”
Outside of work, he is passionate about his family, sport, food and travel.