Science

Student Profiles

My experience with the Talented Students Program

Fahad Khan, TSP student ambassador

I began studying at UNSW in 2017 and was fortunate enough to be invited to be a part of the Talented Students Program (TSP). My experience with the program in first year, I think, was slightly unorthodox because of the way I found my first research opportunity. I want to share with you my experience so that you can realise how unconfined and broad your horizons are as a member of the TSP.

For the longest time now I’ve been interested in dementia because of its debilitating effects which have widespread implications. I’m also extremely passionate about working to help people who are disadvantaged (particularly those who come from low SES and/or indigenous backgrounds) achieve the best they can and have the same opportunities as those from more fortunate backgrounds. Considering this, when given the TSP booklet with all the exciting research projects, I naturally scanned for a project that had some relation to dementia or disadvantaged people. I didn’t find something that jumped out at me immediately. I then reminded myself that I was in UNSW and that our university does more than just the research projects outlined in the TSP booklet!

With this in mind, I went online to the UNSW School of Medicine website to search for a project that aligned more with what I was interested in – a project on studying dementia in disadvantaged populations. I was not disappointed at all. I found a research team at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) that was studying dementia in Aboriginal Australians. Perfect! I then copied and sent the details from that research team to Neeraj who then put me in touch with Trevor Lewis in the School of Medical Science who then put me in touch with the NeuRA research team. The research team said they’d be more than happy to have me experience their work with them for some time. I felt very lucky at this moment because Trevor Lewis and Neeraj both explained to me that choosing and taking part in a research project that wasn’t included in the TSP booklet was not guaranteed and that me taking part would be at the complete discretion of the researchers themselves.

I spent 3 months at NeuRA learning the most amazing things I’ve ever learnt in my life. These 3 months had given me many new insights and ways of thinking about the health of the population in general. In addition to this, the incidental lessons I learnt by asking questions and inquiring about the experiences of the researchers (among whom was a neurologist who had published hundreds of scientific papers and journal articles) were equally valuable as the actual experience of the research itself. My approach to volunteering with disadvantaged people after being at NeuRA has become far more enthusiastic and my basic understanding of the indigenous population of Australia has been enhanced, given I had a very poor understanding about our indigenous population to begin with. I believe that working at NeuRA has definitely been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

In the beginning, I thought that it would be far too much to ask to have a project that would fit my interests since it seemed so very niche – I was so terribly wrong. I hope that after reading this you realise the breadth of opportunity available to you. I encourage all TSP students to take the opportunities available to them with both hands and to realise the perks that come with studying at a university that takes so much pride in its research. If there’s one thing that you take away from reading this, I hope that it’s the fact that you aren’t limited to the awesome research projects in the TSP booklet. I wish you the best of luck and I anticipate that you will all have a wonderful time being part of the TSP.

 


TSP student attends 2019 Physical Chemistry Conference

Lorrie Jacob, TSP Student

I loved being able to go to the 2019 RACI Physical Chemistry Conference in Perth. Over the four days, I got to hear from invited speakers from Denmark, Germany, England and Canada that spoke about their ground-breaking research. I also found out about some of the amazing scientific work that was happening all over Australia, expanding my understanding of what Physical Chemistry encompasses.

The conference gave me an opportunity to make and present a poster of the work I had completed over the summer and TSP projects with the Kable group. During the poster evening I got to explain the results of the research I had done to the academics and PhD students who came over. My group helped me with the design and editing of the poster, and also prepared me to answer any hard questions other researchers may have had about my work.

It was also a great way to meet and talk to other students and academics from different Universities, establishing useful connections for the future before I had even started Honours. Everyone was very welcoming which resulted in a fun, lively atmosphere. By the conference banquet at the end of the week, I felt that I had truly integrated with this amazing community.