Now heading up the Infant and Child Health theme at The Ritchie Centre, Monash University in Melbourne, Professor Rosemary Horne originally wanted to be a vet.
She began her studies at Massey in the 1970s, completing a Bachelor of Science in zoology and physiology, and a Master of Science in zoology.
“I really enjoyed my time at Massey. It was a time when the University was just developing. It had quite a dynamic zoology department and set me up really well for later education and my career,” she says.
“When it came time to do my PhD, 10 years after finishing at Massey, it was the foundation of that research that set me up. Doing a double major for my undergraduate degree gave me the versatility to change career paths later down the track.”
Professor Horne met her husband Tony French, also a Massey graduate, while at Massey, and towards the end of her master’s study, the couple decided to spend three months driving around Australia. It was this trip that spurred the couple to make the move across the ditch in 1978, fleeing the Muldoon era and a lack of job opportunities.
“As soon as I handed in my thesis we made the move, settling in Ballarat where Tony got a job at a law firm. I worked at the hospital there, before getting a job at the Australian Antarctic Division.”
Professor Horne’s pioneering attitude shines throughout her career – she was one of the first women working in biology to travel to the Australian Antarctic Division in Antarctica.
She worked at the division for around three years before getting a job at Monash University at the Queen Victoria Hospital in central Melbourne in 1982.
“It was there that I was offered the chance to do my PhD. I did it part-time over six years while working full-time, and submitted my thesis just before our second child was born.”
Professor Horne’s research has made major contributions to understanding the mechanisms that underpin the risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and the translation of this research into reducing SIDS risk through public education. World-recognised safe sleeping guidelines are a result of Professor Horne’s 30 years of research.
“My PhD thesis was about sleep and arousal responses in lambs. So when I returned to Monash in 1995, this research set me up well to work on a project looking at the effects of sleeping position on arousal in babies. We know that sleeping babies on their tummies puts them at the biggest risk of SIDS, so we wanted to better understand the mechanism that causes that.”
Professor Horne developed the programme in SIDS research, and has since diversified into other areas of sleep in babies and young children.
Included in her many accolades, Professor Horne was awarded the 2014 Australasian Sleep Association Distinguished Achievement Award for her contributions to paediatric sleep research and mentorship of early-career researchers, and last year she received the Distinguished Researcher Award from the International Society for the Study and Prevention of Perinatal and Infant Death for her contributions to SIDS research.
Born in Hastings, Professor Horne went to school in Auckland, first at Devonport Primary School and later at Westlake Girls High School. The couple’s three children, Rachel (32), Thomas (29) and Kate (26) were all born in Australia, and Professor Horne and Tony recently became grandparents to Rachel’s daughter Nora.
“We are immensely proud of our kids. Our eldest, Rachel, lives in Berlin and both she and Kate are lawyers, like their dad. Kate is based in Canberra and regularly visits Melbourne where she is completing her master’s degree. Thomas works in Melbourne for a large company, running all of its IT across the country and in China.”
Professor Horne loves gardening, tai chi and being part of a book club with friends, and says she’s thankful to have been able to travel a lot through her work. “Probably my favourite place was visiting the Galapagos Islands. I had a conference in South America and we went there afterwards. I had always wanted to go – probably the zoologist in me. It was fantastic, just like the David Attenborough programme.”