Group Created with Sketch.

A day in the life of a Program Coordinator at TRAM

Bonnie Zhang · July 22nd, 2021

One of my fondest and most inspiring discoveries was meeting researchers from all levels of the academic pecking order, from experienced research group leaders to PhD students, who were passionate about making an impact with their research.

Bonnie Zhang

From performing experiments bench-side in a cancer laboratory to guiding nine diverse teams of researchers through Track, Translating Research at Melbourne’s (TRAM) pre-accelerator program.

In exercising my entrepreneurial mindset, I’ll use the Double Diamond as a framework to share my TRAM Track experience as an ex-researcher and newbie program coordinator. Let’s give this a go!

The Double Diamond has four segments - i) Discovery ii) Define iii) Develop iv) Deliver. Now the Double Diamond wasn’t intentionally invented as a tool for story telling or reflection, rather a human-centred design framework used to explore a problem more widely as a prerequisite before developing a solution.


Prior to starting this role, I was a researcher at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre working on a drug discovery project to find a novel drug to kill oesophageal cancer cells by starving them of the nutrients they needed to survive. Writing that sentence and reading it out loud, I feel the impact of the work, but impact was exactly what I felt I was missing. My project lived in the earliest stage of the drug discovery pipeline and honestly did not show promise to be translated further.

After 3 years of performing experiments at the bench, I craved the feeling of making an impact in my next role. To me, impact means utilising your skillset to make a positive difference in the world. When I heard that a Program Coordinator role opened up at TRAM, I was inspired to pivot away from academic research towards the innovation space. My depth of understanding of TRAM was shallow but I knew that the program was tailored towards researchers at the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Biomedical Precinct who wanted to create something from their research beyond a publication.

The discovery phase of my journey began on my first day when Andrew Rowse (TRAM’s Program Manager) gave me a TRAM 101 session. He exercised his creative flair by drawing the intricate University ecosystem through Venn Diagrams which also required an “acronym cheat sheet” because RIC, TRAM, MAP, MEC, KTT were jumbled letters going through one ear and out the other! It wasn’t until a week later when we commenced the Track program where I felt this discovery phase come to life.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the workshops were digital so rather than meeting 20 researchers in person, we met 20 faces on squares in a Zoom call. The first session was discovery of who these researchers were, what faculties they came from, what innovations they were working on and their goals for the program. I distinctly remember thinking that it had been a really long time since I learnt such a wide diversity of topics ranging from a software to predict fractures, gamification of hand-hygiene education for kids, potential breakthrough therapeutics to treat asthma and an AI algorithm that could improve colorectal cancer care.

One of my fondest and most inspiring discoveries was meeting researchers from all levels of the academic pecking order, from experienced research group leaders to PhD students, who were passionate about making an impact with their research.

2021 TRAM Track Cohort


“Program Coordinator” is a broad job title which entailed anything from preparing program slide decks, recruiting business development mentors for our teams, conducting coaching sessions for researchers, to politely hassling researchers to complete their weekly updates. Coming from a fundamental research background where the scope of my work was very defined, it felt foreign to engage with a broad spectrum of tasks which sometimes felt undefined. However, I’ve realised that my far-reaching job title has allowed me to learn a range of topics I never thought I would. I’m now aware of the frontiers in innovative research across the University of Melbourne, having observed how a researcher can progress towards building a startup company and the hurdles that present in this process.


The penultimate segment of the rollercoaster is ‘develop’. Development was a constant throughout my entire journey, but I can pinpoint one key moment that stood out to me.

Each week Andrew and I would conduct a 30-minute coaching session with each of the nine teams to check in on their progress as an opportunity for them to raise any questions or red flags with us. The first time I independently conducted a coaching session with the Monash team, I remember feeling self-doubt that I wouldn’t know what to say and that the team would feel disappointed. However, to my surprise in the session I was able to provide a valuable contact in the biotechnology space for the team to connect with and provide suggestions on how to diversify their sources of funding.

My biggest takeaway from this experience is to seek out and create new opportunities that may cause momentary discomfort, because that feeling is heavily outweighed by developing a skill and building confidence to leverage the next time a somewhat daunting experience presents itself.


The final segment of my double diamond experience ‘deliver’ was bookmarked by hosting the Track Presentation Day. Historically, Presentation Day was delivered face-face however, sounding like a broken record, due to COVID-19 restrictions we adapted to a virtual delivery. The purpose of the event is to celebrate our nine research teams by hearing their eight-week Track journey condensed into a short but impactful 3-minute presentation. Encouraged by my team; Andrew and Sarah Robertson (TRAM's Marketing, Communications and Events Manager), both of whom are resident TRAM MC’s, I eagerly put my hand up to MC the session. My decision-making process here was simple, I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone, develop a new skill and deliver a Presentation Day the whole team could be proud of.

The Track teams spent countless hours iterating their presentations with input from myself, Andrew, the TRAM team and our friends over at the Wade Institute and arrived on nine outstanding presentations that represented their trajectory during the 8-week program. In the leadup to Presentation Day, I was nervous and felt pressure to deliver an engaging and smooth virtual seminar, free of technical difficulties. Despite my nerves, I had support from my colleague, Abbie Middlemiss (TRAM's Events Coordinator) to provide feedback on my speaking notes, advice from Sarah on what to do in case I slipped up during the live Zoom call and an empowering hype up from Andrew giving me a boost of confidence right before we went live! With the whole TRAM fam behind me, we were all able to deliver a smooth, timely and impactful showcase to celebrate our fantastically brave researchers.

The Track program takes researchers on an eight-week “Double Diamond” rollercoaster. Their journey commences with discovering the problem their research solves, to defining their target customer experiencing the problem, to developing a solution that addresses the problem. The delivery of that solution was mirrored by my discovery of the Track program, defining my role within the program, development of my skillset bookended by delivery of my first Track Presentation Day. The program has been immensely insightful in how research can evolve into impact and has made me eager for the next Runway program.

Want to know more?

See our FAQs

Want us to tell you about the cool stuff happening in the TRAM space?

Sign up for our newsletter to get key dates, reminders and advice delivered to your inbox.