A conversation with Ella Dickie, 2021 UWA Fogarty Scholar

May 7, 2021

Why did you apply to be a UWA Fogarty Scholar?
For years, the Fogarty Foundation has been renowned as a leader in the advancement of education and giving back to the community. It is these fundamental beliefs that really drew me to apply. I read a book many years ago and in it, the main character’s motto in life was to, ‘leave the world a little better than you found it.’ This really resonated with me, becoming my motivation in my last years of high school, whilst doing voluntary work and in my personal development. I believe that at its core, the Fogarty Foundation strives for a similar outcome and I felt that becoming a Fogarty Scholar would provide me with many opportunities and ideas regarding making this positive difference in the world and giving back to the community.

What are you studying and why have you chosen that field?
I am studying a double major in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Immunology & Microbiology. I find the areas of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Microbiology especially interesting as I am eager to discover and begin to understand all the microscopic processes and changes that occur literally under our noses, especially those we cannot see or even begin to comprehend. I am also keen to delve more deeply into the mechanisms of life, and through my understanding of many of these concepts, be able to assist in areas such as immunology and genetics, and hopefully contribute to great improvements in fields such as human health.

What do you aspire to be in the future?
I aspire to be an innovative leader in areas such as human health or genetics, either involved in research or out in the field, actively making a difference. I would love to be able to assist those less fortunate than me, as I have always been aware of my relatively privileged position in life, and I would love to be a part of a movement towards equality.

What positive changes would you like to see in the world, and how will you contribute to these changes?
I have always been aware of the stark contrast in the standards of living between the developed and the developing worlds. I would love to see, and be part of, a global movement towards equality, especially in areas such as human health. I am keen to become qualified in areas such as immunology and molecular biology to understand the causes behind major diseases and afflictions, and hence, be able to promote healthy changes in developing countries.

Who do you look up to and why?
I have always been interested in the sciences and have been lucky enough to grow up in an era where girls entering STEM industries are highly encouraged. My godmother, Megan Maher, is an Associate Professor in Chemical Biology at Melbourne University, and has throughout her career, received many awards for her pioneering work, such as the Georgina Sweet Award for Women in Quantitative Biomedical Science in 2017. Megan followed her natural passion at a young age, when women in the industry were few and far between. She worked hard to achieve her goals and is now using her knowledge to give back to others. Her drive and resilience make her a great inspiration to me.

How is university life thus far?
The intricacies of university life have been a lot to adjust to, but despite the initial shock, I’m loving it. The independence is so different to high school, and the amount of self-direction that is expected is refreshing. I really like how the lecturers and professors treat us as adults and are more than happy to be challenged and engaged in discussions. At high school, my favourite subject would have been the highlight of my day, but here, every unit is just a different aspect of my favourite subject, and it makes studying (almost) enjoyable!

What have you found good/bad/fun?
One of the things I love about university is how it is a meeting place for people from all around Perth. I have reconnected with many old friends from a variety of places, and it’s easy to bond over little things like the insane number of lectures we’ve yet to watch. I also really like how Reid Library is the central hub of campus – it is so easy to pop in and grab a coffee, watch a lecture, or just have a chat with a friend. The biggest struggle for me so far has been the sheer size of campus – I find walking the kilometre from my bus stop to my chemistry lab so much more tiring than it should be and have learnt to plan my days based on the locations of my classes. All in all, I really love the freedom afforded to me by the style of learning that university offers.

Have you found any great places to have a coffee or eat while at uni?
I must admit, I have done my fair share of trying out all the options, and I have enjoyed everywhere I’ve been. I do find myself at the Quobba Gnarning Cafe in Reid Library all too often as it is just so convenient to pop in and have a look around rather than beginning that next quiz. I love the smoothies from Hackett and I’m a fan of drinking my coffee out of a mug instead of a take-away cup, so I often pop in there to check some emails or just to enjoy the cozy space. One thing I have noticed though, which I must recommend everyone tries, is that no matter where you go on campus, the caramel slices are divine! I have tried them from Quobba Gnarning, Catalyst and Hackett, and so far, I can’t fault them!

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