Six super students select science at Sydney University

18 March 2009

Six outstanding students who scored a UAI of 100 in their Higher School Certificate have enrolled in science degrees at the University of Sydney, with five starting in March 2009 and one to start in March 2010.

The five super science students starting in March 2009 (left to right): Emmanuel Marinos, Caroline Banh, Ben Pope, Ruby Kwong and Nathan Wong.
The five super science students starting in March 2009 (left to right): Emmanuel Marinos, Caroline Banh, Ben Pope, Ruby Kwong and Nathan Wong.

The super science students come from a mix of state and private high schools: Caroline Banh, Ruby Kwong and Nathan Wong all attended James Ruse Agricultural High School; Emmanuel Marinos and Benjamin Pope attended Sydney Grammar School; and Tommy Cai attended North Sydney Boys High School.

Five of them will go on and study postgraduate medicine after completing their science degrees, with Ben Pope choosing the combined Bachelor of Science (Advanced) and Bachelor of Arts degree program. Tommy Cai has deferred his studies in 2009 and will start his science degree in 2010.

While it's early days in terms of their careers, all are at least considering becoming doctors, with some hoping to also be involved in scientific research at some point in their careers.

Ruby said, "I hope to become established in the medical profession, maybe as a surgeon."

Emmanuel has similar ambitions: "I hope to eventually become a specialist doctor or surgeon."

Nathan said, "I hope to perhaps become a specialist doctor in the future. Which specialty? Not quite sure yet - I'm trying to keep an open mind and see which specialty field interests me most. I have a view to participating in humanitarian work and conducting medical-related research as well."

Caroline is also interested in humanitarian work: "I hope to work as a medical doctor, perhaps in medical policy, and work towards a more effective and equitable health care system. I'd also like to do some humanitarian work for NGOs."

Ben said, "In my future career I don't have any real expectation of extraordinary wealth. Dr Rowan Gillies of Medecins sans Frontieres spoke at our high school speech day, and I would feel ashamed if at some point in my career I don't try to do something worthwhile. I just want to do some good things and do whatever else I can to be satisfied."

The five who have chosen to study in the combined science and medicine degree at the University of Sydney will first complete their undergraduate science degrees, then continue on to the prestigious four year graduate medical program.

All five have chosen the Bachelor of Science (Advanced) degree as their first degree before moving onto medicine. This unique combined degree program, which allows students to gain a strong foundation in the sciences, has been offered since 2005.

Choosing Science at Sydney

Caroline was attracted by the flexibility of the combined degree: "The University of Sydney has a very flexible advanced science combined degree, which allows me to pursue my curiosities in science as well as complete a major in French. Students looking for higher-level courses are also catered for through the Talented Student Program, where we work with like-minded students on science research projects. I've always wanted to study medicine, and chose postgraduate medicine at the University of Sydney rather than an undergraduate medicine course at other universities. It gives me the opportunity during my undergraduate science degree to go on exchange: perhaps to France - what an adventure! Exchange positions are quite limited with undergraduate medicine degrees."

Nathan said, "The University of Sydney has a reputation for being one of the leading science research universities in Australia, so the prospect of being part of that was really enticing. Also, I think Sydney is the only university in NSW that allows students to study a combined science-medicine degree. The opportunity to satisfy two of my major academic interests was too hard to resist, I guess!"

Ruby said, "I believe the University of Sydney is highly proficient in science and prepares its students well for their future careers. In addition, I love the green lawns and sandstone buildings which really add to the atmosphere of the University as a whole."

Joining the Faculty of Science (left to right): Emmanuel Marinos, Caroline Banh, Nathan Wong, Ruby Kwong and Ben Pope.
Joining the Faculty of Science (left to right): Emmanuel Marinos, Caroline Banh, Nathan Wong, Ruby Kwong and Ben Pope.

Emmanuel chose this program as "it allows me to not just simply study medicine alone, which is my main area of interest, but also allows me some more freedom in my study of science, particularly chemistry, mathematics and anatomy. Not only does this freedom allow me to continue on with subjects I have a deep enthusiasm for, but it allows me to major in medical science areas to get a taste of the subsequent medicine degree and some extra experience in those fields."

Ben will study both arts and science subjects in his five year combined Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degree program.

"I'm most interested in physics, be it astronomy or quantum mechanics, and I expect this will by my science major. My arts major will be Latin - I have broad interests!" said Ben.

Having all studied Mathematics and various science subjects for their HSC, including HSC Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Agriculture, the six are well equipped to tackle their advanced science studies this year.

Inspired by science

Inspiration to pursue their science studies came from many sources including participation in the Australian Science Olympiads, special science activities and meeting eminent scientists.

Ben said, "In science, the University of Sydney is famous for astronomy and Professor Bryan Gaensler and other University of Sydney astronomers in the School of Physics pop up all the time in magazines and newspapers. I met Professor Gaensler, as he also went to Sydney Grammar School, and his fascinating research played a big part in convincing me to study science at the University of Sydney."

"In Years 11 and 12, I did a special academic course in science at school run by Dr Michael Bishop, who's an excellent teacher. It got me thinking that I'd like to study physics at university," said Ben.

Ben was also enthused about science at the University of Sydney through attending science public outreach activities, including the free hands-on science activities at Sydney Uni Live in August each year, and the Templeton Lecture given in 2008 by Professor Lawrence Krauss about 'Life, the Universe and Nothing'.

Caroline said, "In 2007, I was invited to be a scholar of the Professor Harry Messel International Science School, hosted by the University of Sydney. Over the two weeks, leading researchers from different branches of science gave lectures to more than 150 students from ten different countries. It was quite a memorable experience and many of the other International Science School students have started at the University of Sydney this year as well."

Ruby was inspired by the 2007 Asian Science Camp, in Taipei, Taiwan, "I got to meet five Nobel Laureates in science as well as many other highly esteemed members of the scientific community. During the camp we were given the opportunity dine with these professors and I had the privilege of sitting right next to and talking to Professor Douglas Osheroff - the Nobel Laureate in Physics in 1996."

Ruby was also selected into the Australian team for the 2008 International Biology Olympiad held in Mumbai, India. "We competed against people from 55 different countries in a series of theoretical and practical tasks based on university level biology - it was an amazing experience and gave me the opportunity to make friends with people from all over the globe."

Emmanuel was selected to attend the Australian Chemistry Olympiad scholar school in 2008, which greatly furthered his chemistry interest and knowledge. He's also grown up with science: "my mother and auntie are both scientists and my father and two of my uncles are doctors!"

Nathan was inspired by work experience: "I did work experience under a trauma surgeon at Liverpool Hospital when I was in high school - watching him perform surgery with the aid of optical fibre technology was really cool. Being able to actually see images of inside the human body on the screen was an amazing experience. The surgeon even dissected a human gall bladder for me, which was certainly an interesting sight!"

Advice to budding scientists

To students still in high school considering studying science, Ben has the following advice: "Science students in high school who are really interested in science should be looking beyond the curriculum for how you can learn new things - go to public lectures, do extension work and read as broadly as possible. I think reading popular science beyond your specific interests is a good way to understand the methods of science, and the scientific world view. This puts you in place to learn new things and immerse yourself in your subject - not to mention learn more about our place in this universe."

Emmanuel said, "Never stray from your passions. Don't be seduced by less engaging but more popular choices: if your favourite subjects are sciences, continue with them."

Caroline said, "Study what you're really interested in and never stop being curious!"

Nathan said, "Go with your passion and enjoy what you're learning! Get involved in as many science-related activities at school as you can, like the Science Olympiads or science and engineering challenges to broaden your science experience. And most importantly, make sure you ask around - there are so many options available at uni that there's bound to be a degree to satisfy your interest."

Ruby was succinct, "Make sure you have a science course in your UAC preference!"

Contact: Katynna Gill

Phone: 02 9351 6997

Email: 5c4e3c29581b096a0f19010a25232b0855640c013c6b2721