The best piece of advice I can leave for people starting university, is to take things at your own pace.
For the first alumni article of 2020, Madeline Wemyss shares her journey from the NYSF 2012 Year 12 Program to discussing her Medical Research PhD on radio!
"I was lucky enough to be a participant of the National Youth Science Forum in 2012, attending Session B in Perth. Being part of the program meant that I could not only see and hear about all the fantastic STEM research being done in Australia, but also meet like-minded teenagers from across the country. Visiting the universities and research labs during NYSF and the Next Step (now NYSF Connect) programs gave me the opportunity to see how scientific research is actually carried out – and cemented my desire to learn more about biomedical science at university!
I went on to study for my Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Biomedical Science double degree at Monash University in Clayton. Via the NYSF Facebook groups, I quickly discovered a fellow NYSFer was also starting the same degree, and they became one of my first friends at university. Outside of my coursework, I got involved in university life through the Non-Residential Colleges program, which was in its infancy in my first year and flourished throughout my time at Monash. Joining Orion College gave me a community and support network of students and staff across multiple faculties, while becoming a volunteer adviser in my later years provided me the opportunity to mentor other students and organise student events. I was also able to help staff the program, working as an administrative assistant and mentoring our adviser team. Now that I have graduated, I’m lucky enough to hold another role with Orion College – I’m now a Deputy College Head!
During my course, I had developed a keen interest in Immunology, especially innate immunity and infectious disease contexts. From the inspiration of NYSF and the confidence built by my mentoring opportunities, came the next challenge and I went on to do an Honours degree in Biomedical Science. My studies were based at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, working on a project studying host-pathogen interactions between Salmonella bacteria and human cells. Honours was a steep learning curve (especially due to my relative inexperience with microbiology), but with the guidance of some fantastic and inspirational women mentors and supervisors, I managed to finish my thesis to a high standard – and was accepted back to continue the project for my PhD!
I am now coming up on my one year confirmation milestone for my PhD. Learning how to do research has taught me new techniques, developed my written communication and presentation skills, and given me the opportunity to present my work at conferences with the best of the field. I am now a published author, with a minireview on “Host Cell Death in Non-Typhoidal Salmonella Infection”. I was even able to squeeze the “Cliff’s Notes” version of my research in to just one minute on radio with Triple R’s Einstein A-Go-Go program.
The best piece of advice I can leave for people starting university, is to take things at your own pace. It’s not a race - discover the extra-curricular activities, build a community, learn where you can get support and ask for help when you need it. It is much better to slow down and take a break when you need to, in order to have the mental space and renewed enthusiasm to understand your studies better!
Lastly, there is one final thing I have NYSF to thank for – I met my now-fiancé, Nick, at the Melbourne Next Step program in March 2012."