Talented Student Program and Advanced Courses

Daniel Scott

Career Path

Bachelor of Science (Advanced)
Majoring in Biochemistry and Cell Pathology
Currently in third year
Involved in the Talented Student Program since first year

"If you’re interested in Advanced degrees, make sure they’re at the top of your preference list when you apply for university. If you miss out, you’re still just as likely to get one of your other preferences, but you might surprise yourself like I did!"

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

The Advanced degrees require that a certain number of units are taken at the advanced level. It’s clear that these units are more demanding, but does that really make a difference?

The general ethic among the advanced students is a drive to reach all the information that exists, going way beyond what we need for the exams. I’ve had phone calls at 1am in the morning that meant I read scientific papers for a week…unfortunately, our amazing idea was fatally flawed so we’re not famous yet.

How is TSP different from your other undergraduate study?

TSP gives the freedom to do things you wouldn’t fit into a regular degree such as extra units, or alternative units to those allowed by the degree regulations, which is cool.

The best part for me was having the opportunity to undertake real research from my first year. In contrast to the undergraduate laboratories where the experiments are tried and tested for teaching purposes, a TSP research project is a private investigation with all the hit and miss of real research. Obviously the regular classes teach us the techniques, but opening yourself up to the failures and rewards of real research is something you normally wait until Honours to experience. The opportunity to discover something no one has ever seen before is not an everyday occurrence.

Since you’ve been in TSP since first year, you’ve been involved with a wide range of projects. Can you tell us the highlights?

My second and third year projects, undertaken in the School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, gave me a real taste for research. Strangely, even though my second year project didn’t come close to achieving its aim, I found it really rewarding. There is an enzyme found naturally in heaps of bacteria that breaks down antibiotics. When the enzyme is present, the bacteria are resistant to a whole string of antibiotics which is bad news if that’s the bacterium in an infection in your body. We wanted to purify the enzyme so we could work out the structure. It all fell down because we weren’t able to produce the enzyme on demand, but we did learn a massive amount in trying to do so.

To a certain extent, experiencing failure is good, because it happens in research. When I get to my Honours research project and an experiment I’ve been running for three weeks doesn’t work, I won’t panic. Like anything I suppose, practicing research increases your skills. Apart from the scientific knowledge, this project taught me how to problem-solve and stay focused.

In terms of results, my third year project was much more successful. Of the thousands of proteins that exist, amyloids are those that can fold abnormally. When this happens, they form big clusters that are damaging to the cells in humans and are responsible for problems like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and more. We aimed to discover whether haemoglobin (found in red blood cells) can promote the change in shape. By the time I got to third year, I found I could logically plan an investigation and design an experiment to get a definite yes or no answer. It’s a big leap forward from first year where I acted on other people’s suggestions.

Where do you hope to go from here?

Honours is my goal for next year, but the area is still undecided. There are so many different Schools to choose from that someone at the university is bound to be researching what I’m interested in but I just can’t pin it down yet. Will I go onto a Doctor of Philosophy in science? That’s too far in the future to know – I want to travel first!