Shirley is one of our bright young stars at RSES. She recieved a university medal for her Honours work, and appeared to have great time in the process. Here’s a little from the lady herself:
Bachelor of Global and Ocean Sciences (Honours)
1st Class Hons and University Medallist in 2011
I didn’t realise the broad extent of topics I could study in the Bachelor of Global and Ocean Sciences, having done little science focused on our Earth and environment in high school. Little did I know that going on fieldtrips out to sea, examining fossils on the beach, synthesising crystals, using fractals to study climate change, and interviewing experts and the public on the communication of our science were just some of the things I would be able to do as part of my degree.
In my first three years, I took a variety of courses in chemistry, biology, physics and math with applications to our oceans, our internal Earth and our atmosphere. The more specific topic I wanted to pursue became apparent in one of my Earth science courses. Expecting yet another lecture on rocks by the lecturer who promised that no ‘hard’ math will be involved, the guest talk by Andy Hogg on the global oceanic circulation was refreshing. I was instantly captivated by the colourful flow simulations. Our oceans are vastly unexplored, and yet are teeming with many different physical, biological and chemical phenomena. It’s not just the pretty corals and bright fish!
With emphasis on the oceans, I chose to undertake a special topic course with the geophysical fluid dynamics group where I could study problems that involved math and physics. The project involved experiments on the mixing in a turbulent plume. My honours project was on a similar topic, consisting of experiments and simulations on the turbulent mixing in exchange flows to understand bottom water formation in the seas surrounding Antarctica, flows of water through oceanic straits and over abyssal topography. In the projects, not only did I produce those fascinating flows features I observed in textbooks and lectures, I was able to quantify the mixing that occurred, something never done before.
It should be mentioned that, my four years of rich university experience would not be possible without the didactic environment provided by lecturers and supervisors at ANU and the world-leading research undertaken here.
Sharing with new students
While the courses I took provided an overview of the research in Earth sciences, it is not the same as undertaking projects involving current research with academic staff. Find out what interests you, take the opportunity to do an internship, be a summer scholar or take a special topics course! These projects not only will tell you whether you enjoy the particular field but also give the opportunity for research in current topics and for developing those skills necessary to your field of study and your future career.
Another important point is to know what and why you want to achieve. Set goals that are measurable, direct, and attainable. Always be on the lookout for opportunities and contacts to aid in these goals. But most importantly, don’t forget to be positive, preserve and don’t let setbacks get you down.
Xuerong (“Shirley”) Qin, 20 December 2011