Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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!

What is a PhD?

It stands for Doctor of Philosophy and involves a huge research project but beyond that I didn’t really know so I went and asked a friend who’s currently completing one.

What is involved in a PhD?

A research project* that you work on with the guidance of a supervisor.

* A research project generally involves coming up with a theory or something that you want to investigate such as an unknown feature, and then pursuing this through an experiment. Not all PhD projects will involve a laboratory based experiment.

How is it different to an Honours project?

It really is up to you to research the appropriate literature and come up with your experimental design (the method of testing). While you have a supervisor for both courses, a PhD requires you to be far more independent.

An Honours project is generally one year. How long does a PhD take to complete?

Around 3-4 years.

What is your PhD about?

I’m looking at a particular neuron (a type of cell in the body). These cells are located in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and I want to investigate the path they take. I’d like to complete an anatomical (structural) survey for this cell as nobody really knows where it goes. If we can work this out then maybe we can work out it’s physiology (what it does).

How do you do this?

I inject a virus into laboratory rats. It attaches to these cells making them turn green. This helps me see which structures they go to.

How long is a thesis (written report of all your work)?

What was your pathway into Science?

I completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology in America. It involved a neuroscience component which I really enjoyed, partly because I had an inspirational professor. What I really like about science is that there is a lot about it that is unknown.

What happened after you graduated?

I was a research assistant for a few years. You get to learn a few investigative techniques as well as contribute to some publications. Then I came to Australia and began my PhD.

What is an average day for you?

A balance between writing, experiments, teaching, and reading. Most PhD students will work as a demonstrator (the teacher in the prac classes). It’s great to see a student understand something new and I really enjoy sharing what I’ve learnt with them.

Thanks Charles!


Want to know more about software engineering? Read what George, a third year software engineering student from Chicago, has to say about uni and general life as a student.

1. What are you studying?
– I’m studying software engineering at Loyola University in Chicago but I’m currently on exchange at Melbourne University for one semester.

2. How did you get into engineering – what captured your interest?
– My mum worked for someone who was into Software Engineering. He showed me what he could do, and it was really cool stuff at the time, so I knew that afterwards I wanted to do it.

3. Do you have any advice for students considering commencing tertiary study?
– Do NOT procrastinate! These projects get very difficult very quickly. Your mindset has to be practice, practice, practice! Because in computer science, you improve purely on repetition and simulations.

4. Where does your course take you (as a career)?
– There are a few things I can do with this degree, going from becoming a coding rat (an IT Programmer), to doing web development, software architecture, research, software testing, and various other fields.

Georges advice: Do NOT procrastinate!

5. What does your average day at uni consist of?
– An average day consists of going to class, revisions in between classes, grabbing food at the Union House, then hitting up a study area to get some work done to avoid distractions.

6. Which area of uni has become your ‘second home’ when you are studying?
– The ICT has, just because that is where computer science is based out of.

7. How much time do you spend at uni in an average week?
– I spend a good 20-30 hours a week at Uni.

8. Do you work/participate in sport outside of uni? If so how do you balance time between the two?

– I do volleyball outside Uni. You just have to plan out your days around it, and treat it as a de-stresser because work can be stressful at times and one needs a release.

9. Do you have a favourite coffee or food spot on campus?
– I don’t really have a favorite place for coffee or food on campus. If you want pizza, a place called “real meal” has pretty good pizza. Two slices for 5 bucks; can’t go wrong with that! 😉 :)


If you still want to find out more definitely go via the Eastern Resource Centre (‘ERC’) and the Science Students Centre or check out the Unimelb Handbook for Software engineering subjects.

Andi on the set of Einstein Factor ABC TV :: photo provided complimets of Andi

Meet Dr. Andi Horvath as she tells us all about her love of science, her career in science and gives us some tips for your blossoming science career!

1. How did you become interested in Science?
My year 2 teacher performed a class science demo where she stuffed a student’s hankie (mine!) into the bottom of a glass. She then turned it upside down into a deep bowl of water held it there and pulled it out again. I was astounded, my hankie remained dry! I was even more astounded to learn why: the air in the glass takes up space and the water can’t get to the hankie. From that moment on I was hooked on Science!

2. What is your current job?
I am “Dr Andi” a Science radio broadcasters on 3RRR and a Science podcaster at Museum Victoria. My job title is ‘Senior curator, Science communication’, I also develop exhibitions like the House Secrets at Scienceworks. I have really cool ‘to-do-lists’, example: Find out about microwave ovens for a blog, interview an invertebrate palaeontologist about their findings, etc.

3. Why did you choose this field?
So I studied Human Biology at University. As a post grad student I got a job tutoring Biology and then I realised I actually liked talking about science more than doing it. So when I finished my post grad, I ran away and joined a Science circus to learn about how to present Science to public audiences. Many years later and few jobs later, I ended up here at the Museum.

4. What was the hardest part about jumping from VCE to Uni?
Having even more pimples, I thought they were supposed to stop before you got to Uni. The other thing is you have to set your own homework otherwise you cram for exams and that never ends well. Trust me.

5. What was the highlight of your tertiary studies?
I’ll never forget my pharmacology lecturer (the late Struan Sutherland); his lectures were unforgettable because they were so memorable. He knew how to synthesise and communicate scientific information.

6. Throughout your career, who has been your greatest inspiration?
My high school biology teacher was enthusiastic about biology and that shear ‘enthusiasm’ for getting into a subject no matter how hard or tricky was inspiring. It helped me get motivated to really get my head around complex theories in Science.
There were a couple of ‘professors’ that were very inspirational too. I was always impressed they were so ‘knowledgeable’ in not just their Science but also in history, philosophy, and wonderfully mundane but important things like coffee beans.

7. What was your favourite subject?
My favourite subject was Pharmacology; it’s a great way to understand more about Human Biology.

8. What do you think your science career holds in store for you?
I have no idea (seriously it’s such an unpredictable world) but I rather talk about ‘you’ the reader. Your teachers (like my old teachers) are busy preparing you for careers that may not exist yet. No one had heard of ‘Science communication’ when I was school and now there are courses everywhere.

9. What are the must-dos to achieve a career in science?
Be inspired and be inspirational.

10. If you could give one piece of advice to a budding Science student, what would it be?
When studying for exams pretend you are teaching it someone else (even a teddy bear or action figure will do). Seriously I think I only learnt how fascinating the Science was when I had to teach it as a post-grad! I wish someone had told me that earlier I wouldn’t have had to cram for exams.


Thanks Andi!

The large scale civil/infrastructure project

It is definitely important to get as many opinions and as much experience as possible when making the big decisions involved in tackling the typical uni lifestyle so here’s an interview from a civil engineering student about what she thinks about uni and general life as a student

1. What are you studying (degree and year level)?

Civil Engineering and Infrastructure, 2nd Year at RMIT

2. Did you always know what to wanted to do as a child?

When I was a kid I wanted to be an artist, so no. I finally decided that I was interested in either Engineering or Architecture when I  was in year 10. I did work experience in an Engineering and Architecture and decided to go with engineering…which worked out perfectly.

3. Did you find the transition between VCE and Uni difficult in any way?

I  found it difficult going from a school environment where I was constantly pushed to do the work, to uni where I didn’t even have to turn up. You really have to push yourself to do the work and get assignments completed, and ensure that you keep up with what you are learning.

4. What have been the highlights of course so far?

I love having so much free time. The people are really great. And I’ve really enjoyed the social aspect of uni. I also really love my course. I’m a bit of a maths nerd, so I’m loving that so much of my course involves that.

5. Where does your course take you (as a career)?

Well, there are a few different things I can pursue within Civil Engineering, but I’m thinking of majoring in Structural Engineering.

6. What is/has been your favourite subject?

At the moment I’m studying Steel Structures, which I love. I get to look at all the elements that make up a building and design it from the bottom up.

7. What does your average day at uni consist of?

Usually a ‘tute’ (uni slang for tutorial class) at around 9:30 in the morning. A break at 11:30, usually head to the cafeteria or Melbourne Central for lunch. Then a couple of hours of lectures in the afternoon.

Civil Engineers do A LOT of structural analysis of steel beam structures

8. Which area of uni has become your ‘2nd Home’ when you are studying?

I prefer not to study in the library as I like to talk whilst studying (not always that productive) so I usually find a table in the Cafeteria, and study with friends.

9. How much time do you spend at uni in an average week?

I usually go into Uni 4 days a week, for about 4 to 5 hours a day. I prefer to go in, rather than study at home.  As I get to see friends, and it gets me out of the house.

10. Do you work/participate in sport outside of uni? If so how do you balance time between the two?

I go to the gym, so it’s pretty flexible. I go on the mornings that I have off and I have all evenings free. So it’s pretty easy to fit in with my uni schedule. Although if I get really busy, my fitness tends to suffer a bit.

11. Do you still live at home or have you moved into a share house/college etc…. if so what do you think of living there whilst studying?

I’m still at home. I live close to the train station so it’s a really great location for getting into uni. I’d love to move out but I don’t think I’d be able to afford it while still as uni.


If you still want to find out more definitely go via the Eastern Resource Centre (‘ERC’) and the Science Students Centre or check out the Unimelb Handbook for Civil Subjects

The University of Melbourne has 12 colleges all within walking distance to lectures (so no train/tram excuses will work if you’re late). Living at college will give you an all-around experience since you will be living among other students who are doing a variety of courses. Colleges residents all have their own room but generally share bathroom facilities, laundry and common rooms. The college provides three meals per day in a communal dining room and also support your studies by offering tutors and libraries for your research.

I stayed at Queens College during my “Introduction to Melbourne”. It was great fun and I made a lot of friends since I saw all of them at least three times each day (breaky, lunch, dinner). My stay was short (four days) but Kendra (a friend I met during these four days)  still lives there so for this blogpost I decided to do an interview with her.

Queens college

Interview with Kendra, residence at Queens College:

What are you studying?

I am studying mechanical engineering at the University of British Colombia in Vancouver and am currently on exchange to Melbourne University for one semester.

Why did you choose to study engineering?

I chose to study engineering because I really enjoy the application of principles that you learn in your subjects to real-life situations. The problem-solving characteristics of engineering are really exciting and fun to work through with classmates or colleagues.

What is the best thing at Queens college?

The people. Everyone was extremely friendly from day one and treats you just like family. It is a very supportive community where everyone knows everyone’s names and there is never any hesitation starting up a conversation at the dinner table.

How did you get your room at queens? Application?

After searching through all of the college websites from overseas I narrowed my selection down to three top choices and then applied online. The application was very time-consuming and quite tedious but in the end it was probably worth all the hassle because it is extremely handy being so close to campus, having food provided, and being part of the welcoming college community.

What is the worst thing?

The worst thing is probably the fact that all of the meal times are controlled. You only have certain hours where you can go and have dinner and although you can order a late meal and pick it up to consume later I find it annoying that you have to work your schedule around the college feeding times.

What is the food like?

I really enjoy the breakfast and lunches where you have your choice of cereal, fruit, toasts and sometimes hot breakfast and then for lunch there is always a nice salad and sandwich bar.

Does living at college help/hinder your studies?

Living at college helps my studies for a number of reasons. Firstly, the location of the college makes it easy to get to class on time or even to go seek help on campus if I am ever struggling. Second, the college has its own tutorial program with tutors and mentors that can help you out. Thirdly, Queens has its own library with a very broad selection of books, including textbooks, that help with studies.

– Josefin