You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do. I knew I wanted to know more about disease and I liked DNA when I started. But I didn’t know anything about molecular biology – what I’m currently doing my project in – until I got to my second year of uni.
When you start in a field and at uni, you start off knowing a little bit about a lot of things, then as you get further and further into your career and become specialised you start to know more and more about your area. Most uni courses are really general science in your first year so you don’t have to know right away.
It took me a long time to work out what I wanted to do and I’m still learning. I’m at the early stages of my career and I hope there are many new and exciting experiences in front of me. I’ve always been interested in DNA and when I started learning about how genes were controlled I found it fascinating! It added a whole new level to looking at DNA.
I also like that I can apply what I’m learning in my job to many diseases. The basic processes which control our genes are present in lots of different cellular processes, so I feel like I can help lots of people with the skills I’m developing and get the opportunity to work in lots of different labs.
I was able to choose which lab i wanted to work in for my undergrad project. this turned into honours, and then a PhD project. When I finished this, I tried to find work in Adelaide on the same sort of cancer research that i had been doing, but no one had enough money to hire someone new. So I had to look elsewhere for a job. Luckily I found that my current boss was looking for someone who was trained in a lot of protein work, and was interested in how to target cells which just pumped out whatever drugs you try to treat them with. He was impressed with my work, and so I was hired. It was a bit of a shock to the system going from cancer to bacteria as they are very different cells, but it’s a challenge and I love those! I’m learning more about microbiology every day, but I still work with my old group and publish papers with them on cancer research too!
It also took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do – when I was growing up I wanted to be a florist, then a marine biologist, a nanotechnologist, bioinformatician, medical doctor… I had loads of different ideas! It wasn’t until the third year of my undergraduate degree that I made a decision about what I would work on for the next little while.
One of the great things about science is that you can change what you work on as well – I won’t be working on ankylosing spondylitis forever!
Lulu you are more fascinating! I always wanted to be a scientist. But I gave my final decision after taking part in a summer project in a molecular biology lab at the end of Year 9. First of all I wasn’t very impressed when I first walked into the lab because I was expecting super-duper cool equipment like automatic doors made of shiny metals, blue lasers everywhere or some weird green colour coming out of a weird organism… No it was nothing like that, it looked so ordinary actually. However I had already signed up for the project, and I didn’t want to quit just because of the looks. In two months, the way I was looking at things in life almost turned upside down, everything changed, for the first time things started to make sense. It all happened because for the first time I was exposed to real science. I was doing a very cool project at the same time reading many scientific papers (which I had a bit of trouble to understand at first go then I got use to it). I was learning too many things in such a quick time but my brain wasn’t only digesting all the knowledge but it got addicted to it, I wanted to learn more and more. Upon completion of my summer project – for the first time I knew exactly what I wanted from this life. I had a purpose…