2011 Dean’s Prize Winner – Kate Hulme
Kate Hulme’s attraction to medical research comes from close family ties. Her father, a medical researcher himself, had always encouraged Kate to ask questions. Growing up, she wondered about her father’s work and what medical research was like in the real world.
After graduating from Sydney Girls High School, Kate immediately began a Bachelor of Medical Science at the University of Sydney. Last year she won the prestigious Korner Prize for first place in second year Medical Science.
Kate says she was attracted to the Summer Research Scholarships program by the opportunities to interact with people while carrying out a research project. She was one of 60 students accepted to participate in a nominated summer research project supervised by staff at the various clinical schools and research institutes of the Sydney Medical School.
Supervised by Professor Cheryl Salome and Dr David Chapman at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, the research project compared the maximum and residual dilation of healthy airways after taking a deep breath. This research is expected to lead to many advances in the understanding of airway physiology for asthma sufferers.
Her research project was conducted over a period of eight weeks and at the end of this time, Kate was one of just eight candidates nominated for the Dean’s Prize. Each candidate then gave a presentation and participated in a question and answer session with the winner announced by the panel at the end of the presentations. Professor Salome congratulates Kate, “she did a great job both in completing the research and collecting some very useful and important data, and in presenting her data clearly and passionately”.
Summer Research Scholarships offer a unique opportunity for students to obtain experience in medical-related research. They provide students with a fantastic insight into the research process and give them the opportunity to test whether research is for them.
Kate says, “For the first time I was able to conduct an experiment where no one knew what the answer would be. This element of the unknown showed me just how exciting research is, when it is up to you to take the next step forward at the cutting edge of science.”
The program benefits not only students but supervisors as well. Professor Salome’s experience as a supervisor confirms this: “For the researchers, the opportunity to interact with enthusiastic young people is really invigorating.
“My group has been part of the summer scholarship program for a number of years and I think it is a great program for researchers and students. For the students, the opportunity to experience research first hand is really important. It’s not just about learning the practical and intellectual skills needed for research, but it's also about understanding the rewards that come from the thrill of discovery and the experience of being part of a research team.”
While summer holidays for many students involve working casual jobs, Kate’s involved much more: “Over the summer, I learnt much more than just airway physiology. I also experienced what a great environment research provides: collective thought, the opportunity to ask endless questions and a great group of like-minded people to support you. At the end of my second year of Medical Science, it was an amazing opportunity to work with experienced medical researchers and as a result I hope to continue medical research in my future.”