Talented Student Program and Advanced Course

Fiona Naughton

Fiona Naughton

Career Path

Bachelor of Science (Advanced)
Majoring in Biochemistry and Physics
Currently in second year
Involved in the Talented Student Program since first year

"Even if it does look like a lot of work, you should see it as a great opportunity that really rewards the investment of your time."

Currently in her second year, Fiona has been involved in the Talented Student Program throughout her Bachelor of Science (Advanced) and feels spoilt for choice when it comes to her future research direction.

What are you majoring in?

I’m doing a major in Biochemistry and Physics. I’m currently doing a TSP project with Joel Mackay. I’m trying to work out the structure of a particular protein domain that no one has found the structure for yet. It’s a DNA binding domain. It’s believed to co-ordinate zinc, but no one knows for sure yet.

What attracted you to the TSP program?

My plan after Uni is to go into research. At the undergraduate level we don’t get a lot of experience in a research environment. The practical work that we do is designed to always be successful; whereas in research things don’t always go as you expect them to. So I thought it would be good to get that experience of what research is really like.

Are you enjoying it so far?

It’s great being able to do my own thing, as opposed to just being told what to do. I really like the opportunity for independent learning.

How do you think it compares to the other courses that you’re doing?

I’ve been able to use a lot of the techniques covered in lectures that we otherwise wouldn’t have had an opportunity to try. For example, you get told about a number of different machines that are used in research, but at the undergraduate level you don’t get any specific exposure to them. We would just give our samples and the lab staff would disappear with them overnight and return with a result.

One such device is the nuclear magnetic resonance machine (NMR), which I was able to use myself to find my protein structure. It’s something that had been mentioned in lectures but I had never seen before.

How demanding has your TSP study been?

It is quite demanding to do the TSP units. But it’s good in that there is no set time that I have to do it. When I’ve had breaks at Uni, I’ve been able to come in and work on my project. It’s great for filling up the breaks in your schedule. This gives me the freedom to plan it however I like.

What would you say are some of the highlights of the program?

Being able to do stuff that no one else has done before. In second year at university I’m already working at the forefront of my field.

What are your plans going forward?

I would like to continue in the TSP program and then do honours. I haven’t decided whether or not if I want to go into physics or biochemistry. After that I plan to get a PhD and pursue a research career.