A big year in their life: Honours journeys at JCSMR

Andrew Zeller, Dan Palmer, Fiona Lewis and Sandali Seneviratne have had a big year conducting their Honours research at The John Curtin School of Medical Research. They spent their days (and sometimes nights) elucidating the mysteries of single-stranded DNA, investigating the cellular basis of memory, understanding how to improve malaria vaccines or developing drugs to target specific pathways in heart cells.

What drove them to do an Honours degree? A willingness to help people and a fascination for science. “Coming up with solutions to big problems is so inspiring and fascinating,” says Andrew.

They all admit it was a full-on, and sometimes stressful, year but a truly rewarding one too. “I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to spend a year learning, understanding new concepts, and trying to contribute to the questions I find most interesting,” explains Dan.

And all their hard work led to very proud moments. Andrew’s biggest moment took place after months optimising methods, when one of his main experiments worked perfectly. “My supervisor and I felt like we had discovered something big, it was so exciting”.

For Sandali, the highlight of the year was right at the end. “The printing and binding of the thesis was very emotional”. “Everything you did for an entire year ends up as this document, it was such a special feeling, I was beaming with joy!”

Another highlight of the year has been the support they got from their fellow students. “We all became very close friends,” says Sandali. “I didn’t expect such comradery and that made a huge difference”.

Fiona agrees: “We would lift each other up on difficult days, we knew we were all going through the same things.”

Andrew, Dan and Sandali are planning to do a PhD next. Andrew, who is already back in the lab, is set on going to Europe. Dan and Sandali will stay in their Honours labs. Fiona has been accepted in Medical School and will be starting early next year.

This Honours year has been a fantastic opportunity for them to better define what they want to do. “I wouldn’t change a thing,” says Fiona. “I loved working with my supervisor on this project, it was a wonderful year!”