Five years ago I could never have guessed or hoped to be where I am today: here, in Australia, studying for a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy – Environmental Science) within a prestigious and flourishing research group. I began my journey to Deakin University by undertaking a master’s degree by research at the University of Central Lancashire, where I developed a passion for analytical chemistry. I loved that I could begin to understand and explore the world around me using techniques that were at my disposal. A few months into my master’s degree, I received an email from my supervisor asking me if I had any interest in moving abroad for a PhD. I almost dismissed the email, surely I wouldn’t be lucky enough to get on any PhD, let alone move abroad!
A short few weeks later, I had a meeting with Dr Xavier Conlan from Deakin, who had stopped by for a fleeting visit after a conference in Europe. Xavier recommended applying for a PhD at Deakin with Professor Stephen Haswell, who had a PhD opportunity developing Lab-on-a-Chip devices within the Centre for Regional and Rural Futures. A day after having a successful viva examination for my master’s degree, I had the interview for my PhD. Little did I know, less than three months later, I’d be making the move to Australia.
The day I found out I had been awarded the scholarship and accepted onto the PhD, I felt every single emotion you could imagine. Panic at the thought of taking on this huge new venture alone, excitement and anticipation to see what the future held, and finally sadness at leaving behind friends and family.
I arrived, totally out of my depth, studying an area of research I had no experience in. My PhD project involves the development of a Lab-on-a-Chip device – basically a miniaturised diagnostic device – for the detection of performance enhancing drugs in thoroughbred race horses, which requires different aspects of engineering, chemistry, biochemistry and physics. I relish the challenge of building these devices and see a bright future for Deakin University with the miniaturisation of complex diagnostic techniques into these portable devices.
On the 22 February 2015, I boarded the plane and made the move Down Under. The sayings took a little adapting to… apparently responding to everyone with, ‘Oh, very well thank you and yourself?’ is not exactly what is required when asked, ‘How ya going?’. Everything here was new and exciting: waterfalls, the Great Ocean Road, wineries, forests, trying to figure out what a snag was (not a thread on your jumper apparently!), etc.
When I arrived at Deakin, I truly felt at home. I was welcomed not just by a support network as a student, but as a friend into a tight knit community with open arms. I haven’t looked back since.