Saying 'yes' to opportunities shapes career path for UQ biotech alumnus
When Louisa Parkinson embarked on her Bachelor of Biotechnology (Honours) studies at The University of Queensland, she knew she wanted to contribute her skills to make a difference in the world.
Five years on, Ms Parkinson is not only busy researching avocado diseases and playing a role in improving food security around the world, but she has also appeared on billboards, online and on television as the featured student of UQ’s latest ‘Create Change’ campaign.
Now a PhD student at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) -- a partnership between UQ and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries -- Ms Parkinson recalls that it was undergraduate lectures about the positive impact of plant science on global food security that really inspired her to be a researcher.
“I loved everything about the biotech program,” she said.
“In my Honours year, on top of completing independent research, we undertook a commercialisation course where we applied our Honours research to the commercialisation process.
“The program also taught me how to pitch and present research, which I have found useful to my career so far.”
Trips to research centres outside of UQ as part of the biotechnology program site visits, and attending seminars presented by biotechnology industry members, also helped.
“The visits gave me an insight into the research institutions and private industries I could work for throughout my career,” Ms Parkinson said.
“In fact, I’m doing my PhD at one of the sites we visited -- the Ecosciences Precinct in Dutton Park.”
Ms Parkinson also found her Honours research year to be a key opportunity for developing her laboratory skills, demonstrating her ability to conduct independent research, and forming potential work contacts by interacting with researchers.
“This opened up the prospect for postgraduate research as a PhD student at the laboratory where I had completed my Honours year,” she said.
“I also did the summer research program that year, another fantastic work experience and networking opportunity for study or work.
“I think completing Honours is beneficial for science undergraduates as it can provide them with a competitive edge in job applications.”
Ms Parkinson, whose PhD research focuses on investigating soil-borne fungal diseases of avocado trees, said that after completing her PhD, she plans to do postdoctoral research and subsequently work as a research fellow or an industry scientist.
“I enjoy working in the lab and being in the field, and I’m enthusiastic about presenting my research,” she said.
“Someday I would like to be a lecturer or a research supervisor and help to inspire students to pursue careers in science.”
Never one to shy away from a challenge, including winning the QAAFI Three Minute Thesis competition heat, and then silver in UQ’s final across all institutes, Ms Parkinson said that her number one advice to any student is to say ‘yes’ to opportunities.
“Volunteer and get involved in activities at UQ that are related to your career ideas,” she said.
“Talk to your lecturers after class, and tell them about your keen interest in science -- they will remember your enthusiasm.
“Opportunities are everywhere at UQ, it’s just a matter of saying 'yes' to them.
“Saying 'yes' to opportunities has definitely helped shape my career so far.”
Image: Louisa Parkinson