The Honours Experience


Why do honours? If you are looking to improve your career prospects, open the door to further academic study, or simply indulge a passion, then honours is your next step. For many students, honours is an introduction to further academic research with many using it as a pathway to undertake a PhD. For others, it is the springboard to a high-flying career in the workforce. Last year, science graduate Emily Perks undertook an honours project in astrophysics and it played a major role in her landing a job with one of Australia's most well-known companies. Here she shares the highlights of her honours experience.

What did you study and where has your science degree taken you?

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Advanced Mathematics) (Hons Physics). I had a double major in maths and physics and I did honours in astrophysics. I now work for Macquarie's Funds Group, as a Quantitative Analyst in the Equities team. My role involves performing research and building tools for the Equities team, and draws strongly on the maths I learned in my degree.

Did doing honours have any influence on where you’ve ended up after uni?

I know for a fact that my doing honours was a factor in my employer's decision to hire me, but aside from that, the year gave me time to figure out what I really wanted to do. Although I haven't chosen a career in the same field as my honours research, I use a lot of the skills I learned in my honours year at work. I think doing honours actually gave me more confidence in my abilities as a researcher.

Why did you decide to do honours?

I initially decided to do honours because I had no idea what else to do, but became enthusiastic about it when I found my supervisor and discussed projects with her. All of my friends were doing honours, and I didn't want to exclude the possibility of going on to do a PhD later. I wasn't really enjoying university much by that point, but the mixture of research and coursework appealed to me.

What was your honours project?

My project was in theoretical astrophysics, and involved testing the theory that gravitational microlensing might be able to confirm the presence of magnetohydrodynamic turbulence in astrophysical accretion discs. Try saying that three times over!

What did you get out of your honours year?

An appreciation of a full night's sleep and an addiction to caffeine! I learned a lot in my honours year, about problem solving, working independently, working under supervision, and self-motivation. I made some good friends, and I definitely believe it made me both more employable, and better-equipped to do my job.

What were the highlights of your honours year?

Highlights were the camaraderie between the honours students, the excitement of performing new research, and some of the really interesting courses you only get to do in an honours, like Dr Lewis' famous General Relativity course.