Advanced Course

Alsion Mildenhall

Alison Mildenhall

Career Path

Bachelor of Science (Advanced)
Majoring in Biochemistry
Currently in second year

“The frontier of scientific discovery feels very accessible, even at the undergraduate level. Our lecturers are the ones who are making these breakthroughs or have personal working relationships with others who are. You really get the feeling of being at the front line of scientific endeavour.”

Alison is in the second year of a Bachelor of Science degree and has a keen interest in biochemistry. She agreed to chat with us about her studies, and what life as a mature-age student in the School of Molecular Bioscience is like.


How have you found your study in the School of Molecular Bioscience so far?

I’ve found the school to be supportive and very interested in providing good student learning outcomes. Labs are challenging and exciting. You can sometimes feel a bit tired at the end of the day but I find it really enjoyable.

What got you interested in Biochemistry?

I felt that this was the field that was most likely to make a real difference to the world. We have an ageing population. We have a lot of illness and related problems that could be solved within our lifetimes.

Biochemistry is now at a stage that is in many ways, similar to the sort of revolution that occurred in physics at the turn of the twentieth century. There are really exciting discoveries that are happening right now. The frontier of scientific discovery feels very accessible, even at the undergraduate level. Our lecturers are the ones who are making these breakthroughs or have personal working relationships with others who are. You really get the feeling of being at the front line of scientific endeavour.

You’ve been doing the advanced courses and the lab work. How do these components compare to other forms of study? Do they really challenge you?

The lab work is definitely challenging and rewarding. They require a far greater degree of individual thought than normal classes. You are given a large amount of responsibility for your own learning – an aspect I really appreciate.

I’ve really enjoyed the advanced courses which I’ve started doing this year. It’s closer to what you would have to do in a real lab, in terms of having to plan and manage several experiments at once. If you aren’t offered the advanced courses in your first year, I definitely recommend working hard in your first year to get the marks required to do them in your second.

How have you found the teaching in your courses?

The teaching is of a very high quality. There is far less of that absent academic feel that I’ve experienced in my other studies, and a lot more of the feeling that they really care about student outcomes. It feels like they really care that you understand the material. They don’t just turn up for an hour and scribble on the board. Their aim is to really educate you.

I think there has been a lot more emphasis in the last 15 years on universities being more competitive for students. There has been a lot of research on how to improve student outcomes and I think it shows. All the people who are student facing really seem very personable. Dale Hancock, for instance, who was administering for about 1200 students, is very energetic and motivated, and cared about every single one of us getting through the exams.

How does your mature age perspective influence your perception of learning in the School?

In some ways it makes it easier. I want it more. I care more. I have better organizational skills. I have a better understanding of the desired outcomes from each piece of assessment and I have a better understanding of what they are trying to get at. More experience of the world helps with just about anything.

It comes with some difficult aspects as well. I work all weekend and I haven’t had a day off in a long time. So it definitely requires commitment and good time management skills.

What advice would you give to other mature age students?

Be kinder to yourself and allow yourself to occasionally make mistakes. Mature age students will often be hard on themselves. Understand that you won’t necessarily be doing as well in either your work or study as you would if you were giving either of them a singular focus.

What’s your ambition after your degree?

I haven’t decided on a definitive plan. I want to be able to go to bed at night thinking that I’d done something good that day. I want to be able to retire thinking I had made a difference in the world. I want the human experience to be less fraught and I want to do something intellectually stimulating. I’m not sure yet the best way to pursue that, but I may well go on to pursue a research career.