Academic Excellence Scholarship Recipient 2017
In the last week of July last year, I was honoured to represent Australia at the 2017 International Biology Olympiad held in the United Kingdom. It has been an amazing journey from the initial stages of the Olympiad that sparked my initial curiosity about biology, to the challenges that fuelled my persistence and interest in the subject, and now to my hopes of pursuing a career in the biological or biomedical sciences, or medicine.
We arrived several days before the IBO to explore London, meeting the acting Australian High Commissioner, visiting Buckingham Palace, and riding the London Eye. When we came to the University of Warwick for the Olympiad, there was an opening ceremony where all the national teams were presented, followed by one day of practical exams and one day of theoretical exams with excursions in the free days. Alongside the social events and icebreakers between countries, there is a tradition at the IBO of national teams exchanging gifts. It was incredible for me to meet so many inspiring people across the world in a single week, and it’s not only given me a small insight into the lives and ambitions of students in other countries, but also encouraged me to consider studying overseas.
What I found most intriguing were the practical exams on biochemistry, botany, and developmental physiology, each of them comprising multiple parts with frightful time pressure! For example, the developmental biology exam first involved a dissection of dead fly larvae under microscopes to identify anatomical structures such as the brain, salivary glands, spiracles (their external respiratory openings) and wing discs. This was followed by a dissection of anaesthetised larvae to find a beating dorsal vessel - the major component of their circulatory system, somewhat like our heart - and finally an independently designed experiment on how various insect hormones affected the pulse. Another section of the botany practical involved a stain of Arabidopsis seeds (member of the mustard plant family), which rendered them transparent so we could identify mutant embryos.
Participating in the Olympiads has sparked a passion for biology and challenged me to go far beyond what I thought was possible. It’s an experience like no other and a gift that keeps on giving. It’s given me the opportunity to return as a tutor and lecturer for the Australian Biology Olympiad Summer School - to see the program come full circle and the current students now flourish in an intensive academic course that not only stretches them to their limits, but also allows them to thrive in a rich social environment with like-minded peers.
A single exam can open so many doors, so I urge all who are considering sitting the Australian Science Olympiad Exams to stop hesitating, and to go for it!
Finally, I’d like to thank all my teachers, Dr Meath, and The Mac.Rob Foundation so much for supporting me throughout with all their enthusiasm. It’s been an incredibly rewarding journey, and one that will continue to shape my aspirations in the years to come.
Dux of the Class of 2017
Are you interested in supporting the education of gifted young women in Victoria?