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An intensive week of work experience discovering all about malaria research with students and scientists from Burnet’s Richards Laboratory was both enjoyable and inspiring for 16-year-old Katrina Larcher.
The year-10 student from Melbourne’s Star of the Sea College in Gardenvale came well prepared, having studied malaria in an elective at school, but found the breadth and diversity of Burnet’s projects an eye-opener.
“There’s some aspects of the week that I expected, but other things have really taken me by surprise,” Katrina said.
“I assumed everyone in the lab would be working on the same project, but everyone’s got their own projects on different aspects of malaria like prevention and vaccines and finding a cure, and there’s not necessarily a crossover.
“I’ve been shadowing (PhD student) Leanna (Surrao) and she’s going to Vietnam to work on optimising a diagnostic test for parasites to see whether it will work in the field.
“It’s been really interesting learning about what they’re all doing and I think I would like to pursue something similar in the future.”
Laboratory Head Dr Jack Richards believes it’s important to support secondary school students, and girls in particular, to make the most of their talents and interest in science.
He said it’s important also to make the most of career planning programs that enable students to experience what the working environment is really like.
“It’s been a new experience for Katrina, and it’s different from the science she’s seen at school,” Dr Richards said.
“She’s spent time with the whole team, so she’s seen how we all work together to achieve the goals that we’ve got.
“I think she’s fitted in really well, and learned a lot of new biology, and about the international public health research that we conduct as well.
“We’ve got an opportunity to engage young, enthusiastic kids who are making important decisions at that time of life which can set them up for the sort of work that we do, but also create relationships with them that they can carry through their university days.”