Student profile: Ed Brackenreg, Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Engineering

Edwin Brackenreg is a third year student in the School of Molecular Bioscience. He is currently pursuing a double degree in Engineering and Science. Edwin has been an aviator for the bulk of his career; as a fighter pilot and instructor in the air force and more recently as an A330 captain for Qantas. Now he is looking to change track and pursue a career in science.

What made you want to pursue science after so many years of being an aviator?
Ed Brackenreg

I've always been interested in science. When I left high school it was a choice between aviation and science. Over the years I’ve maintained my interest in science. By reading magazines like "New Scientist" I kept up with the latest developments and learnt about the revolution going in the areas of biochemistry and molecular biology. It was so exciting that I just had to get involved. I started reading journals like "Science" and "Nature", but it was way over my head. I knew I needed to go back to university to learn the basics.

What has surprised you about study in molecular bioscience?

Even though I’ve been trying to keep up with the science, it really amazed me just how fast the field is progressing. It feels like the lecturers are having to update their material every year. The stuff that really excites me is the material we’ve been presented in the lectures about how genes get turned into proteins, and how this determines various things about a cell, like its type, whether it can become cancerous and whether that can be treated.

All this has to do with how genes are translated into proteins. They now have the ability to create their own specific proteins to bind to genes. In the future this could lead to new treatments for cancer and other genetic related diseases.

Is there any particular facet of the teaching that you found to be helpful?

The lecturers in the School of Molecular Bioscience are really dedicated to getting across the message that they are trying to teach. Having studied at the schools of engineering, biology, chemistry, physics and math - I would say that the lecturers from SMB are highly motivated and very good at what they do. Very good at getting across what we need to know.

On top of the lectures I’ve found the laboratory work to very practical and relevant and very well managed. I feel it’s really setting me up well for future research work in honours and my PhD.

What advice would you give for any mature age person thinking about going back to study?

Do it. We’re all living longer and the traditional model of working in one field before you retire is becoming outdated. I think a lot of people won’t find that to be very attractive in the future. What’s more, the number of people in the older age bracket is going to increase dramatically, and the youngsters are going to have to work their guts out to support them. We’re just not going to be able to afford this. I think older people should think seriously about doing something that they find interesting and challenging later on in life, rather than retiring and lying on a beach somewhere.