A degree, unlike anything else

"I’ve always been really interested in diseases," explains Jessica Fitch, an Honours student in the Bachelor of Philosophy program. Jessica is busy conducting her Honours research within the immunology program at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, where she is screening human DNA for copies of the recently discovered gene ROQUIN. The gene has been linked to autoimmune disease in mice and now Jessica hopes to help determine its role in the human immune system.

Research has been a highlight of Jessica’s time at ANU and she says her degree has allowed her to pursue the projects which appealed to her the most. "I got to do some really cool things," she says.

Her past research projects include everything from searching marijuana DNA for markers to aid forensic profiling of the drug, to surveying public opinion on issues of women’s health and rights.

Jessica says these experiences not only prepared her for Honours but also reassured her that the laboratory is where she wants to be. "Right from first year we can do really interesting research. It gives you opportunities to get more experience and do hands on things at an undergraduate level. It confirmed for me that I was really interested in research."

As a Canberra local, Jessica admits that she originally wanted to move away but couldn’t pass up ANU and the degree structure it offered. "This degree is unlike anything that anyone else in Australia offers. I’m really happy I stayed now, it is fun being a university student here, there are just so many students and a great kind of atmosphere and community."