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Student story

Joel Schuurman

20 July 2023

"I love how the department and my group treat me like a scientist..."


Bachelor of Science in Chemistry

Master of Science in Chemistry

"I love that I have real world goals, in that potentially my work will contribute to the world in some way," Joel says of his master’s research, which investigates the possible applications of metal oxide materials, by reacting the surface with different molecules to help tune physical and chemical properties.

Joel had originally planned on becoming a veterinarian by taking some preliminary Science courses at UC.

"But in doing a broad spectrum of science papers, I found myself far less interested in the biology of animals and found that I was completely hooked and fascinated by Chemistry," he says. "I just had to know more, so I went with it and never looked back."

Moving from his undergraduate study to master’s has given Joel more opportunities to conduct his own learning, academically and personally. His favourite part is the variety of his day-to-day routine, from experiments in the lab to data processing, and helping out in the undergraduate labs.

"I love how I get to properly use all the things I’ve learnt in my undergraduate classes to achieve my goals, while still having to continually keep on developing my skillset," he says. "So many things are awesome about what I do which is why I love it.

"It has taught me to think a lot more scientifically, learning to distinguish what needs to be questioned further, to objectively identify problems and come up with solutions. It has given me the practical skills required both to be a scientist and work in a lab, such as the use of specialist equipment and safe handling procedures, along with making me more proficient with my reading and writing, presenting ideas and public speaking.

"In my postgraduate studies there now is no longer a clear right or wrong answer, and that it is up to me to go out and do my best to see if I can come up with a reasonable answer. Chemistry makes more sense of the world around me while at the same time giving me more questions I want to learn the answers to."

The best part about UC for Joel is the Chemistry Department and fellow students, which were another huge incentive to stay with UC after discovering Chemistry and finishing undergrad.

"I love how the department and my group treat me like a scientist, "he says. "If you plan to go on in Chemistry at the same university it is a great opportunity to get to know the academic staff which you end up working closer with as the years go on. It only gets better the longer you stay, I love feeling like I’m a part of a team that is friendly, supportive and helpful."

With goals to continue contributing to Chemistry industry research, Joel plans to continue onto a PhD with UC after completing his master’s.

Having spent five years out of study from high school before going to university, he strongly advises other students to find their inspiration before feeling rushed into tertiary study.

"As it was for me, university isn’t going anywhere and it is never too late, "he says." I believe that anything can be learnt and anyone can get there as long as they are willing to put in the effort to make it happen."

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