Join us as we talk to Nicole about her life as a post graduate student and her love of Zoology!
1. How did you become interested in Science?
I was interested in science from the time I bought my very first guinea pigs and they had 3 little babies. The mum was a scruffy guinea pig, dad was smooth haired, yet all the children were scruffy like mum: I remember I found that so fascinating that they inherited their scruffiness from their mum. Over the years I had a zillion pets and baby animals, and learnt I could mix breeds of guinea pigs I liked together to get the traits I wanted in their kids. It was my first taste of what zoology and genetics would be like.
2. What are you currently studying?
I first did my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Genetics and Zoology. Then, I decided to do a postgraduate degree and enrolled in the Masters of Science research course, majoring in Zoology.
3. Why did you choose a Zoology degree?
I have loved animals for as long as I remember. I had as many pets as I could growing up, and loved playing with all my friend’s pets and finding out interesting facts about animal behaviour. What I also love about Zoology is the field work component, as you really get to hands on with nature and animals, all in the name of science!
4. What was the hardest part about jumping from VCE to Uni?
The hardest thing about the switch to uni from school was probably the cultural aspect of it. You’re in a small, tight-knit community at school, and your friends are with you every step of the way. At uni, there are different people in each of your subjects, and your forced to make new friends in each one, which can be quite challenging if you’re shy and nervous. But once you make the effort to get to know a range of people, from your subjects, clubs and societies, uni life is great fun and you’ll treasure the friends you make here for the rest of your life.
5. What has been the highlight of your tertiary studies so far?
My Masters research project has definitely been the most challenging aspect of my degree, but also the most rewarding. It’s so fulfilling to develop a whole project from an idea, design experiments to test a theory, and potentially answer biological questions nobody has ever been able to answer before. I’ve learnt so many skills from it as well such as how to manage my time effectively, communicate with different audiences, and how to work proactively and independently.
6. Throughout your course has there been anyone who has inspired you?
I’m most inspired by my peers every day! The most comforting part of a Zoology Masters is that there are 20 other students going through exactly what you are going through. Whether if your research methods are not working as planned, you have no significant results, or you have so much work that you’re scared you won’t meet a deadline, you can be guaranteed someone else has gone through it before and can offer some words of comfort and encourage you to persevere!
7. What place around Uni is your second home?
The Zoology department is most definitely my second home now. As a postgraduate, we’re privileged enough to get our own desk spaces, as well as access to a computer room and printing privileges. The tea room is a great place to meet up with fellow students and catch up, and friday drinks are a tradition. What else could you want as a postgraduate?
8. Where do you plan your course will take you?
There are a few careers I have in mind. One would be a research career, starting with a PhD degree. I’m also looking at entering government where I can work on state or national policy regarding wildlife and biodiversity. Another avenue I may take is in Environment Impact Assessment, where I’d survey land for any wildlife present before construction companies decide to build there.
9. What does an average day at Uni consist of for you?
During semesters, I do my subjects, which are run by the zoology department and business departments. As I’m allowed to take electives in my Masters course, it’s been great to try some business subjects to see if I like the idea of entering the business world sometime in my career. Between semesters is where I undertake my research, and my study site is in rural Victoria, out near Geelong. I have a bird banding license, and I catch superb blue fairy-wrens for my project where I am looking at female mate choice.
10. If you could give one piece of advice to a budding Science student, what would it be?
The Bachelor of Science is a great degree to see what you really enjoy and find out what you’d like to do afterwards. You get to take such a variety of subjects, that it really gives you a chance to experience subjects you’d never thought to take before. I thought I would follow a career in genetics when I first started science, but then found I loved zoology much more, and changed my career path entirely. Broad degrees are the best to take if you’re still a little unsure and want to dabble around. Also, science kids are the best friends you’ll ever make. So get excited, and study science at the University of Melbourne!