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Students inspired to follow career in cancer research

science QUT
QUT Assoc Prof Derek Richard is Science Director of the Cancer and Ageing Research Program.

Bundaberg Region students with an interest in science and medicine have been given an opportunity to work alongside industry experts from the Queensland University of Technology.

Students from Gin Gin, Childers and Bundaberg were recently mentored by Professor Derek Richard after meeting him in the region as part of Bundaberg Regional Council’s Job Commitment program.  

The students joined Professor Richard at QUT for work experience in the field of Health and Biomedical Innovation.

Professor Richard has been instrumental in cancer research studies through his work as Scientific Director in the Cancer and Ageing Research Program at QUT.

Bundaberg Christian College Gateway Coordinator Amanda Kelk said the school had the pleasure of working with Professor Richard last year and his presentation had left a lasting impression on students, leading some to pursue a career in cancer research.

“Initially we had about 30 students from various year levels invited to hear Derek’s presentation,” Amanda said.

“Derek shared the challenges he had overcome personally as a youth and demonstrated to students that anything is possible if you are resilient and prepared to work for what you want.

cancer research
Former BCC student Quin Harbison is now studying at QUT after becoming inspired by Professor Derek Richards.

“One of our 2020 graduates, Quin Harbison decided to pursue a career in cancer research because of it.”

Amanda said Quin had not determined at that point if he would seek a Bachelor of Science and, if so, what field of study he wanted to specialise in.

“After hearing of Derek and the information that he shared during the presentation, Quin was inspired and sought to not only find out more about what QUT offered, but to find out about cancer research and the possibilities for future scientists in this field,” she said.

“Since this time Quin has commenced his Bachelor of Science studies at QUT and been in contact with Derek and his team.”

Professor Richard said he had since been in communication with Quin and other Bundaberg Region students.

“I actually met Quin today and gave him a tour of the building,” he said.

“We have had students visit from Gin Gin and from Isis as well so it has been great to make that connection.”

Science started early for QUT professor

Creating a link between regional schools and the university was something Professor Richard said he strived to achieve.

cancer research
Associate Professor Derek Richard with Bundaberg Christian College students Kristen Apostol, Justine Harper and Clay Harvey at BCC last year.

“I have always been passionate about student engagement as that is how I became involved in science,” he said.

“When I was at high school I was given the opportunity to visit the Scottish Crop Research Centre in Dundee. I thought it was so cool that I decided that’s what I want to do with my life and here I am now.  

“I think I need to pay that back to the system so that I can inspire others to be researchers, you never know I may just persuade a future Nobel prize winner to start a career in STEM research!”

Amanda said students would get the opportunity to work with Professor Richard again this year.

“After Derek’s visit, we received a great deal of positive feedback from a number of students who were moved and inspired by his presentation, many of whom wanted to know more and were keen to follow up with his kind offer of further learning opportunities,” she said.

“As a result our Year 11 Science Ambassador’s are looking to spend a week with him and his research team in July, working in their labs alongside PHD students in their specific area of focus such as medicinal chemistry, molecular modelling on computers, engineers designing new equipment, cancer cell biologists.”

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