When Michael Kasumovic, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology at UNSW, enrolled in a science degree back home in Canada because he wanted to become a dentist, he also – by chance – decided to take an elective course in animal behaviour. “It completely changed my perspective,” says Michael.
Michael went on to complete a PhD in evolutionary biology. As part of his fieldwork, he studied redback spiders in Australia, forcing him to get over his arachnophobia pretty quickly!
That was 12 years ago and Michael has been at UNSW ever since. “My career has taken me on a winding path which involved a lot of serendipity,” says Michael. “By exposing myself to different opportunities, I was able to find what really drove and interested me.”
Several years ago, Michael began thinking about how he could better engage some of the students in his evolutionary biology courses. He decided to develop a smartphone app using elements of location-based Augmented Reality (AR) games. Some of the first prototypes saw students completely immersing themselves in the animal world by mimicking the behaviour of spiders.
The app evolved into the Arludo startup, which now includes a diverse team of programmers, User Experience designers, games developers and communication gurus. Michael says that the biggest challenge as a scientist learning to be an app entrepreneur has been developing new skills in games design and stepping out of his comfort zone.
Michael’s advice for students is to volunteer some time with researchers, PhD students or a company to find out what you like and don’t like. “Chance opportunities are often the greatest opportunities – if I hadn’t taken that elective course I wouldn’t be here today!”
> > Bachelor of Science (Biological Sciences), McMaster University, Ontario, Canada
> > Master of Science (Biological Sciences), Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada
> > PhD (Evolution), University of Toronto
> > Postdoctoral Researcher, UNSW
> > Associate Professor & ARC Future Fellow in Evolutionary Biology, UNSW
> > Founder, Arludo
“Chance opportunities are often the greatest kind.”
Author: Larissa Fedunik-Hofman
Larissa is the editorial assistant for Careers with STEM and a Chemistry PhD student. Larissa’s goal is to promote public engagement with STEM through inspiring stories.