Recently, biomedical science student Leah MacDonald, was awarded the first Christopher Haggarty-Weir bursary at the University of the Sunshine Coast. This is an annual scholarship I set up to give something back to my alma mater where I did my biomed degree. I thought it would be a great idea to sit down with Leah and ask her a few questions about herself and her interests, as well as life as an undergraduate in the sciences.
So tell us a little about yourself, your background and what got you interested in science?
I was lucky enough to board with a science teacher for my first year of university. He had so much knowledge about environmental science which I found intriguing. When I applied at USC, I started off in psychology but after completing the physiological component I realized I loved biology and swapped.
And what made you choose biomedical science for your major?
Biomedicine provides flexibility in learning content and varied educational opportunities. I could integrate a laboratory science degree into the biomedical science component. I was able to complete pathology placements at three major hospitals and complete a research project as an undergraduate.
Do you have more specific areas of interest within biomedical science?
Microbiology is my favorite area of biomed. I love the idea that our cells work in symbiosis with even smaller cells and we are completely dependent on them for survival.
And what sort of career path are you currently considering and why?
I would love to do research as a microbiologist. Microbiology solves issues that vary from cleaning up oil spills to vitamin absorption in the gut. So much research needs to be completed and knowledge acquired. Such areas of study include overcoming antibiotic resistance and how microbes will be effected by/may help climate change.
Who have been your biggest inspirations or role models in science and why?
I have too many role models to mention. But they include my Dad who told me from a young age to always question everything. The science teacher who demonstrated “field studies” by bringing snakes into the house for me.
My university lecturers who always believed in me even after I blew up numerous lab experiments. USC Alumni who gave me the chance to expand my horizons and realize exactly what I’m capable of.
What are the current major challenges for new students at university in the sciences (or in general) today?
Balancing work, financial, university and social obligations. Students that suffer from physical, mental illnesses or come from minority cultural backgrounds face even greater challenges. Help can be hard to get and numerous biases against these individuals exist.
What are some of the things you love the most about your university?
The potential that USC has as a new university is substantial. It gives geographically isolated students a chance at tertiary level education by providing strategically located campuses throughout Australia. USC also celebrates multiculturalism and gives lower S.E.S. students, such as myself, an invaluable opportunity.
Any advice for high-school students considering going into an undergraduate in science?
Make the most of every opportunity that you are given. Do what you love, passion is needed to succeed (and stay sane) in science. Perseverance always pays off. Network as much as possible and appreciate that university is more than just a piece of paper with a score on it. University is a chance for you shape the future for yourself and generations to come.
Well I am sure I’m not alone in wishing Leah all the best for her future academic endeavors! For those who also would like to see about giving to the University of the Sunshine Coast, consider the Starfish Program.