National Science Week: Rima's role
When science meets sport
After a busy few weeks recovering from the Olympics and getting ready for the Paralympics, the Sport Integrity Australia Science and Medicine Section is pretty excited about Science Week.
From the food we eat, to the training we do and the hormones that make us tick, our scientists love the biochemical reactions that bring science and sport together. Leading the charge for National Science Week for Sport Integrity Australia is Science Officer, Rima Chakrabarty.
As a child who enjoyed maths and biology at school, Rima has always been interested in science. With a Bachelor of Science Degree (Advanced) (Honours) in Mathematics and Chemistry, specialising in differential equations and organic chemistry, Rima dabbled in sport integrity early through her internship and honours at the Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory (ASDTL), studying performance and image enhancing drugs.
Rima’s career started as a Year In Industry intern at ASDTL (a World-Anti-Doping Agency accredited laboratory) where she managed routine testing, while undertaking research projects. That included a harmonisation project to unite how different laboratories analyse the same drugs, helping validate a way to detect haemoglobin based oxygen carriers in blood, and developing a method to test for SR9009, SR9011 and their metabolites.
How very scientific! But wait, there’s more.
This project included the lab next door making the metabolite which, coupled with an excretion study, was distributed to other WADA labs. So we had solid analytical techniques to detect SR9009 and SR9011 and their metabolites before they gained a foothold as a doping agent. In Rima’s words “it was awesome!”
Rima returned to ASDTL during the Commonwealth Games to help with analysing samples, before returning to do her Honours and then to work as a research assistant.
Rima started working at Sport Integrity Australia a year ago. When asked what attracted her to the role, Rima says, “I had experience working on one side of anti-doping where I got bottles with random numbers on them and got very used to handling a LOT of urine. But I really did want to know where does this come from and how else can we protect athletes?”
Further, Rima explains she is quite idealistic and wants to make a positive impact in the world. “This is one way that, with my specific background, I feel that I can.”
Rima is definitely making a positive impact. Her main role at Sport Integrity Australia is researching and understanding what certain drugs do, and looking at athlete biological passports and working out when to do more testing. In layman’s terms, Rima says, “Effectively, every time someone gets tested, the labs get concentrations on testosterone and related metabolites. The results tend to be quite consistent within a person, so we look at the results to work out when there are inconsistencies, if there is a reason for the inconsistency, or if it looks suspicious. If it looks suspicious, we can suggest getting another sample or doing more analytical tests.”
Rima enjoys her role as a scientist within sport and feels privileged to work and learn in a field she finds fascinating and valuable. She also loves the bragging rights of being involved in major events such as the Commonwealth Games and Olympics.
When Rima isn’t changing the world with science and protecting our sport, she might be found in the midst of a Simpsons’ marathon. “I have watched all 31 seasons so far in the last few months,” says Rima, “And the equations in some scenes are actually real.”
Happy Science Week Rima and thanks for all you do for sport in Australia through your pursuit of science.