Talented Students Program Profiles

Ms Inga Lidia Topolnicki

Ms Inga Topolnicki

Ms Inga Topolnicki

What are you studying?
I'm in my final year of a Bachelor of Science (Adv.)/ Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Chemistry and French.

When did you become interested in chemistry?
I had a very good science teacher in high school who showed me that science is a wonderful mixture of creativity, logic and the unknown. I was drawn to chemistry in particular because I love solving problems in a visual, hands-on sort of way.

What made you come to the University of Sydney?
As I knew I wanted to study a course across two faculties, I was looking for a university strong in both the sciences and the arts, and Sydney Uni seemed to fit perfectly. I was also attracted by all the things you can do on campus when you're not in class such as the clubs, societies and festivals.

What made you decide to choose your course?
When I left high school I couldn't choose between the arts and sciences, and still can't for that matter. But doing a double degree was perfect for me because it meant I didn't have to drop one of them and could always have a balance of different subjects throughout my whole degree.

Can you tell us about your involvement with the TSP?
Last semester I did a 6 credit point research project supervised by Dr Deanna D'Alessandro and Dr Suzanne Neville. I synthesised and examined the magnetic and electrochemical properties of metal-organic framework materials designed for potential use in carbon dioxide capture and conversion technologies.

What things have you learnt so far from your TSP experiences?
The most important thing I have learnt so far is that I would really like to continue on with research and do Honours in chemistry. Each TSP research subject is like a very small Honours project and a great way to try different areas of chemistry and see which you are particularly interested in.

What made you decide to be involved in the TSP?
I knew that being involved in the TSP meant I would have the opportunity to break from the regular pattern of lectures, tutorials and set lab sessions. I loved the idea of looking into one area of research in depth while at the same time knowing I could count the research as credit towards my degree.

What are you planning to do next?
Next year I will do Honours in chemistry and then at the end of 2015 I will take one of two paths. If I really enjoy my Honours year, I will stay on to do a PhD. Otherwise, I will do a Master of Cultural Material Conservation with a focus on chemical analysis.

How do you think the TSP, your degree and studying at the University of Sydney will help you in the future?
I am certain it will make my transition into Honours a lot easier because I have been taught so much already about academic writing, had practice presenting my research findings and spent a lot of time doing hands-on work in the lab.


Ms Carmen My-Nhi Tran

Carmen Tran

Ms Carmen Tran

What are you studying?
I'm about to start my third year of science in the combined Science (Adv)/Medicine degree.

When did you become interested in chemistry?
I always liked science as a kid and enjoyed chemistry in high school, but I really became interested after the first few weeks of chemistry at university.

What made you come to the University of Sydney? What made you decide to choose your course?
I chose the University of Sydney because it offered a combined degree with my interests in science and medicine. The beautiful campus and student life are also a definite plus!

Can you tell us about your involvement with the TSP?
I've done three short research projects as 6cp subjects. Two were with the School of Chemistry (see below). My other project was with the School of Molecular Bioscience to investigate the transcriptional memory of adipocytes in contact with macrophages.

What sort of research have you done?
WMy first TSP project was with the KCPC investigating the membrane permeation properties of cyclic peptides, which are small rings of amino acids that spontaneously assemble into long tubes. My project was to develop an fluorescence assay to measure whether different cyclic peptides and cyclic peptide-polymer conjugates could form pores within synthetic vesicle membranes.

My second chemistry TSP project was working with Liz New's group to create a fluorescent redox probe. This involved trying to link a fluorescent dye with flavins, which have redox-sensitive fluorescence.

I've also had other opportunities outside TSP projects. My first TSP project with the KCPC gave me the opportunity to continue some research in the summer holidays of my first year, working on synthesising polymers and cyclic peptides. In addition, I am also currently undertaking a summer scholarship research project with Mat Todd to develop potential anti-malarial drug leads using an open source research approach. hat sort of research have you done?

What things have you learnt so far from your TSP experiences?
My TSP and other research experiences have given me an opportunity to learn much about how chemistry research actually runs in a research laboratory. There are the general laboratory skills, particularly in organic synthesis and spectroscopy for me, and learning about, and how to use, a variety of laboratory equipment oft-mentioned in lectures, but not seen in lab classes. The learning experience goes far beyond undergraduate laboratory classes, where you are typically in the lab just once a week to do a reliable experiment, with everything laid out for you. In the TSP, you get a chance to work at the boundaries of chemistry, and will soon find out that research doesn't always go smoothly. Reactions don't work, and accidents happen, and you always need to keep your mind open to work around any problems

What made you decide to be involved in the TSP?
I heard about the TSP as providing a unique opportunity to take part in real research as subjects for my degree. It seemed like there was so much more to learn and explore outside the usual coursework units, and that certainly was the case with the TSP. On top of that, it provided an insight into chemistry research as a career.

What are you planning to do next?
My current plan is to continue on to study graduate medicine at USYD. Because of this, I'm still undecided as to whether or not I will undergo an Honours year, but given my experiences so far, I'm sure it would be an amazing year.

How do you think the TSP / your degree / studying at the University of Sydney will help you in the future?
The TSP has taught me a range of skills applicable within a chemistry laboratory, as well as skills that I can take with me to any other field such as problem solving, efficiently searching the literature, and keeping an open mind and an eye for detail.