Lieutenant Luke Le Grand has become Navy’s first ever Scientific Research Officer, posted to the Army-led Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute at Gallipoli Barracks, Brisbane. The institute is a world-recognised centre for malaria research and training, with a mission to ensure that Australian Defence Force personnel have the best possible protection against malaria and other vector-borne diseases.
Lieutenant Le Grand, who has a background in biotechnology and biomedical science, joined the Queensland-based institute in September last year as a key member of the team dedicated to researching mosquito-borne pathogens.
“It’s an incredible privilege to be part of the integrated and highly-specialised team dedicated to the defeat of established and emerging threats posed to Defence personnel deployed in Australia and around the globe,” Lieutenant Le Grand said.
“This is of growing significance for the Royal Australian Navy. As we continue to develop our amphibious capability, greater numbers of Navy personnel will be subject to an increased threat of tropical diseases – principally arboviruses and malaria,” he said.
Lieutenant Le Grand achieved an Advanced Masters in Biotechnology in 2009 from the University of Queensland, before being employed as an Operations Advisor and Lab Manager at the School of Chemical and Molecular Bioscience. In 2013 he opted for a sea change, joining the Royal Australian Navy as a Maritime Warfare Officer.
Lieutenant Le Grand said that swapping his binoculars for a microscope has been a big change, but one that he is definitely enjoying.
“It’s all a bit surreal, really. Five years ago I ran away to join the Navy as a Maritime Warfare Officer, and now I’m back in the lab.
“My posting to the Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute has been an effective and productive confluence of my military training, my university research, and my laboratory experience,” Lieutenant Le Grand said.
“Day to day the work is quite varied. Some days I’ll be in the lab conducting experiments like cell cultures, virus extraction or DNA synthesis, while others I’ll be instructing pathology technicians from the Royal Australian Air Force and New Zealand Defence Force on arboviruses.
“I’m also in the midst of drafting an Arbovirology Chapter for the Joint Health Command Manual, and most excitingly, my department is in the early stages of developing a field study with the aim to better characterise the disease risk to our troops within some of our training areas, which we hope to get underway later this year.”
Lieutenant Le Grand said that being the Royal Australian Navy’s first Scientific Research Officer offered him a unique perspective at the Army run Institute.
“At the moment, I’m the only Navy guy here. It has been an asset coming directly from Fleet Headquarters for a couple of reasons. I am able to more readily identify where the Institute may lend support to the Navy and who to speak to, and importantly, I’m disposed to evaluate issues from a Navy perspective and organically promote Navy’s interests.”