'I had some really great lecturers who got me excited about science...'
Bachelor of Science with Honours in Cellular and Molecular Biology
Research Assistant, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia
‘I love turning up to work on a Monday and genuinely enjoy what I do,’ says Rachael, who is fulfilling her career ambition of contributing to improvements in cancer treatments.
As a research assistant at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre, Rachael works in the laboratory at one of Australia’s top medical research institutes.
‘On a day-to-day basis this involves many different laboratory techniques, including cell culture, microscopy, western blotting, flow cytometry and mass spectrometry,’ she explains.
‘We are trying to gain a better understanding of how mitosis, or cell division, is controlled, and to determine how this process is disrupted in cancer cells. This knowledge will help us to predict how patients might respond to certain mitotic drugs, so we can improve current therapies and lead to the development of new cancer therapeutics.’
Rachael says the most exciting aspect of a job in medical research is the way things constantly move forward.
‘I love that my job is a journey. Every little discovery or unexpected result leads you to the next clue in trying to understand the bigger picture, and making all of your data fit together to tell a story. It also makes me happy to know that we are trying every day to improve the lives of those affected by cancer.’
Rachael credits her Honours degree at UC for giving her the experience and skills she needed to get where she is today.
‘Canterbury has a great reputation as a place to gain a highly regarded science degree,’ she says. ‘You need a solid theoretical background to be able to move onto the practical side of science. The Honours project I did in my fourth year is where I learned the most in all my degree. With Honours you finally get to apply all your theoretical knowledge to a real-life question. You learn to troubleshoot and see a project through from start to finish.’
Her UC experience was enjoyable both academically and away from study.
‘I had some really great lecturers who got me excited about science. Rather than simply teaching the facts, they got us inspired to want to discover things for ourselves.
‘I also enjoyed the social life at Canterbury, through living at University Hall, being a part of the different societies and going to all the fun events that UC and the UCSA put on each year.’
Rachael won two research scholarships which enabled her to undertake projects in her summer breaks, and believes this is the ideal way for students to build their experience ready for work.
She advises others: ‘Do all you can to be involved in the science industry outside of the University. My summer studentships were the best thing I did to prepare myself for employment. They give you a chance to implement what you are learning in your degree, but also to make strong connections for finding a job when you graduate.’