Talented Student Program and Advanced Course
Bachelor of Science (Advanced)
Majoring in Chemistry and Biochemistry
Currently in her second year
Involved in the Talented Student Program since first year
"My passion has always been in understanding how things work. I was one of those annoying high school kids that would always ask, 'But why? But why?'. I would be told that I have to wait until later before I could delve deeper into that sort of thing. Now that I'm doing my Undergraduate Degree I'm starting to get answers to some of those questions.”
Emma is the recipient of multiple prizes for her work in her first year and is well on her way to a fantastic career in Science. We sat down with Emma to find out why she is so passionate about studying in the School of Molecular Bioscience.
Tell us what really interests you about science.
My passion has always been in understanding how things work. I was one of those annoying high school kids that would always ask, ‘But why? Why?’. I would be told that I would have to wait until later before I could delve deeper into that sort of thing. Now that I’m doing my undergraduate degree I’m starting to get answers to some of those questions.
What work have you been pursuing in the School of Molecular Bioscience?
I volunteered last summer as part of the Talented Student Program to work in Professor Iain Campbell’s research lab. We were testing different kinds of inflammatory proteins to see what sort of effect they had on cells and other downstream effects.
That sounds pretty cutting edge for your first year at University?!
It was really exciting. The real aim of the research was to test various cytokines to see if they had any effect on initiating inflammation responses. We found cells that didn’t have a particular kind of receptor that we thought they should have. It’s exciting because it might have implications for cancer and Alzheimer’s research.
What did you find useful about volunteering in a research lab as a TSP student?
The opportunity to actually get into a lab after 6 months or a year of Undergraduate study is fantastic. I was always interested in research, but being able to get into the lab allowed me to really confirm my passion for it. Even if you’re not as sure about research as I was, it’s much better than just waiting until your Honours year before getting a taste of what life as a research scientist is like.
It also makes what you are learning in the lectures a lot more exciting because you get to immediately apply what you’ve learnt in a research setting. You get a much better understanding of how the overall process works.
What sort of things do you think you learnt that you otherwise wouldn't have, without that experience?
I gained a lot of insight into experimental design and procedure, but I think some of the most useful experiences came when we hit a stumbling block of some kind. Sometimes the evidence from an experiment would be inconclusive and the data uncertain. Professor Campbell would ask us what we would have to do to fix the experiment. He would give us the space to think about it for ourselves and try to come up with the answer.
We would also have to give a half hour speech explaining the work we had done which really helped with developing our skills in scientific communication. I learnt that it’s really important to be able to clearly explain your results to your peers as well as the general public.
What would you recommend to students keen for a career in Science?
It’s really important to develop a broad scientific background. At school I did Physics, Chemistry, Biology and 4-unit Maths. I find that I still use bits from all these subjects in my current study.
Also, it’s good not to cling desperately to your idea of what you want to specialize in later on. It won’t stay the same. I originally wanted to be a geneticist but now I am more interested in organic chemistry. I’m still leaving it open by doing a double major - so I can keep my options open for now.