- Matilda O’Connor
To think that the world is around 4.5 billion years old, and we as humans only live to a mere 80, blows my mind.
- Conor Butler
With climate and environment related problems looming particularly large, I was interested in getting a more interdisciplinary understanding of these problems than my social sciences background had given me.
Using the MSc to shift careers, Peter is studying a Master of Computer Science with an interest in Bioinformatics and has been offered a position in the field before graduating.
For some time, I've been interested in applying my skills to problems that can really help people, particularly by applying the relatively recent fields of machine learning, AI, and big data techniques to problems such as the analysis of the human genome.
Through my studies, I've had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from domain experts in the field. Their passion, knowledge, and drive has been contagious. I feel that I am part of a community of like-minded people who are always there to help and motivate.
I was recently offered a position at the VLSCI (Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative) while finishing my MSc part time. I'm looking forward to establishing my career in this area and applying my newly acquired skills to interesting and worthwhile problems, by learning from and contributing to the latest research as a part of a motivated and inspiring community of researchers.
I am comparing brown coal in the Lower Rhine Embayment in Germany with La Trobe Valley brown coal in Victoria. Lithotype cycles in the brown coals of La Trobe Valley display well-developed lightening-upwards trends. I will be looking at these depositional successions in the German (Rhenish) brown coals to determine if they follow similar colour grading trends.
As part of my research I am going Germany to complete my fieldwork and take samples to bring back to Australia. I will be working alongside a German geologist (who speaks little English) in one of the brown coal mines just outside of Cologne, in a small medieval town called Bedburg. Although it will be challenging, I cannot wait for this experience; to actually look at the brown coal I have been reading about for so long, to improve my German and to work alongside someone who has been in the industry for many years.
I completed my undergraduate at the University of Melbourne, majoring in geology. Geology is a relatively small faculty at UniMelb, so getting to know the professors/lecturers is a lot easier. Because of this, I could discuss a range of projects with the academic staff and choose something that focused my interests.
Geology is truly a fascinating science; to think that the world is around 4.5 billion years old, and we as humans only live to a mere 80, blows my mind. I also love the outdoors and learning about the processes that have created the beautiful planet we live on. Understanding the earth’s history is important for the development of society both economically and environmentally. Because I am so passionate about earth sciences, I guess any job in geology would be a dream job. Obviously, my heart is in coal, so working alongside others who are passionate about coal would be amazing.
With the world population ever climbing, biotechnology has the ability to directly answer problems related to the demand for food, medicines and many other key global challenges. The Master of Biotechnology uniquely offers a taste of both research and industry, so I jumped at the opportunity to explore either option.
As a part of the industry project in the degree, our group has been tasked with identifying the key influencers of a novel peanut allergy vaccine currently being developed by a relevantly new start-up biotech company. Already within this first month of working on the project, I have met three CEOs, put together a professional charter and have begun sketching the competitive landscape for our product. Over the next few months I’ll get to meet other key people involved in the process of commercialising a biotech product, including the IP lawyers and the lead researchers. With access to some of the finest resources, my team and I will put together a report that the company will use.
I have relished the sense of community within the Master of Biotechnology; I’m happy to say that most faces of our year are now familiar to me. There is a strong focus on teamwork in the coursework, meaning that you do a fair amount of group work within your core subjects. It’s been truly rewarding; I met my closest friends in the course through group assignments.
Having studied environmental issues from a social science and humanities perspective in my undergraduate degree I was determined that I wanted to engage with environmental challenges through a more scientific lens. Forestry appealed to me as an area of study because it would allow me to pursue my new interest in the environmental sciences while at the same time continuing to engage with socio-economic drivers which influence environmental outcomes that I examined throughout my undergraduate degree.
The highlight of my course has been the Bushfire and Climate intensive subject at the Creswick campus. I gained an understanding of the principles of bushfire science and the application of fire spread prediction modelling for bushfire management in Victoria. This subject has played a critical role in determining my career direction going forward. After undertaking the subject I became inspired to undertake a masters research project related to bushfire management. I am now hoping to work for the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning in a bushfire management role.
The International Forestry Student Symposium (IFSS) is an annual event held each year by the International Forestry Students Association (IFSA), and I was awarded $1500 from the Julia Hale Trust to attend the IFSS in Manila and Los Baños in the Philippines during July 2015. The event program involved a lecture program about forestry context in the Philippines, field trips to areas of interest and the IFSA plenary sessions. The event provided me the opportunity to enhance the relationship between IFSA and the University of Melbourne, develop international networks among forestry students and young foresters, gain insights into forestry challenges and practices in many parts of the world and gain an in depth understanding of the forestry context in the Philippines. It has given me a range of new insights into the diversity of the field and the importance of forest science globally in addressing environmental, social and economic challenges.
I gained some insights into the history of deforestation in the Philippines and some of the challenges facing Filipino forest managers today. We were introduced to a broad range of reforestation projects which are being undertaken by governments, international environmental organisations, local communities and private industry in the Philippines. Another valuable education opportunity for me was being able to visit mangrove forests for the first time. We learnt about the delicate ecology of these ecosystems and the important role they play to coastal communities, by reducing the erosive impact of cyclone storm surges. I was able to contribute to a mangrove rehabilitation project by spending an afternoon planting mangrove trees.
When I was very young I was always very excited about understanding how things worked- I would take them apart and look inside, or drop them and see if they bounced. My curiosity extended to all avenues of the sciences, and with further study I found my way to the most fundamental path to understanding- down to the tiniest of constituents.
Studying at the University of Melbourne has meant having the flexibility to find what I enjoy studying the most, and explore all avenues which interest me. It has also meant developing a deeper understanding of my area of study before I chose to pursue it by engaging with excellent academic and research staff at the University. The highlight of my studies has been joining my current research group and being able to participate in the Centre of Excellence in Particle Physics (CoEPP) at the Terascale conference over last summer- where I presented some work I did while employed as a Summer Student.
My dream is to work in academia: I would love to be able to continue learning through research, and to share my knowledge with others via teaching.
Conor is specialising in Governance, Policy and Communication.
My concern about how societies are dealing with the risks created by a modernised/globalised world led me to pursue the Master of Environment. With climate and environment related problems looming particularly large, I was interested in getting a more interdisciplinary understanding of these problems than my social sciences background had given me.
The highlight of my studies has been encountering more diverse and critical approaches to discussing environmental problems, and feeling like I can contribute to this. I would like to either pursue work in research/academia, or in policy or consulting to put my skills to good use.
For anyone considering the course, keep an open mind to the quite different takes on environmental issues offered by the various schools of thought one might encounter. Academics and fellow students in the Master of Environment think across very abstract to applied, concrete disciplines, but it's very rewarding to genuinely listen to opinions that may seem discordant with your own.
Receving the Professor John Lovering Graduate Environmental Program Scholarship will allow me to focus time on developing a more worthwhile and significant piece of research over the coming year.