“I have never liked chemistry,” admits Hannah Thomas, PhD student at the University of South Australia. It wasn’t until second year uni that she decided to take on biochemistry to fill a vacant space in her timetable.
“I loved it so much that I went on to major in it, do Honours in it, and that ultimately led to my PhD.” Hannah’s now the ‘don’t knock it ‘til you try it’ type. She’s currently involved in medical research with her PhD that investigates the role of cells called ‘pericytes’ in healing, but could see herself in teaching or other areas of health in the future.
“We have to love what we do, and as we change that may change too.”
It’s this can-do attitude that meant Hannah was a finalist in 3MT. “3 Minute Thesis” is a presentation-based competition that pits PhD students and aspiring science communicators against each-other to whittle their thesis down to three minutes, presented to a panel of judges. Hannah represented the University of South Australia in the competition, after winning at the university’s preliminary round.
“Competing in the 3MT for the University of South Australia was the scariest but one of the most rewarding challenges I have taken on to date.” says Hannah. 3MT is a multi-national competition, held with over 600 participating universities from 63 different countries – sure to frighten even the most seasoned public speaker.
The nature of the competition means participants have to know their thesis inside and out, boiling it down to a comprehensive overview in just 180 seconds. The exercise teaches you to see your research from fresh eyes, and re-evaluate the purpose behind the work.
Hannah’s PhD research hopes to revolutionise healing therapies in patients with a lack of pericytes. This condition is often associated with diabetes, but is common amongst patients of retinopathy, Alzheimer’s and chronic kidney disease. A lack of pericytes leads to poorly-healing wounds and higher rates of amputation, however restoring pericytes in these patients has the potential to accelerate healing in future therapies.
“When you do a PhD, you spend a lot of time thinking about the very focussed, nitty-gritty details of your project. Taking part in the 3MT requires you to take a step back and consider – why should people care about what you are doing?” says Hannah.
Hannah says the great thing about studying STEM is the boundless choices you can make in your career. The door is open for Hannah to venture into different areas of health or even science communication after her PhD, but she’s committed to taking things one step at a time.
“You are constantly growing and evolving, and what engages you right now may change.
“Honestly, I’ve never been able to see more than one or two steps ahead myself, I believe it’s good to base each new step you make on your current interests and motivations.”
– Eliza Brockwell
Hannah’s path to becoming a PhD preacher with the University of South Australia:
> > Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology, University of Adelaide
> > Honours in Biochemistry, University of Adelaide
> > Currently completing PhD in Biomaterials Engineering and Nanomedicine, University of South Australia
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.