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Susan's dreams come true through Science Summer School


Anne-Louise Brown
3 November 2014
Most people don’t get excited over single-cell algae. But most people aren’t like Susan Oeding.

The 51-year-old Alstonville mum-of-three is passionate about diatoms - the scientific name for single-cell algae - and has just completed her Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours at Southern Cross University studying the value of diatoms as biological indicators of water quality in a sub-tropical river system.

Now she is planning to undertake her PhD, a goal she never dreamed possible until she attended Southern Cross University’s 2014 Science Summer School.
According to Ms Oeding, the school gave her the skills, confidence and academic network to make her dream come true.

“I got really valuable lab experience. That was something I didn’t have a lot of and I needed that to do my Honours project, because I spend a lot of time in the lab. That was really important to me,” she said.

“It was a huge learning curve and I got a real sense of scientific design – knowing how to build and design a project effectively.

“The networking aspect was so invaluable. I met like-minded people who I now speak to every week. We share information and help each other where we can.”

For her PhD, Ms Oeding plans to expand on her diatom research and hopes to use her knowledge to inform and influence policy and sustainable management of natural areas to ensure healthy and functioning ecosystems.

The 2015 Science Summer School gives undergraduates and recent graduates the opportunity to team up with some of the University’s leading researchers to complete a short science-based project over four weeks in January.

SCU Science Summer School coordinator Associate Professor Andrew Rose from Southern Cross GeoScience said the program was a way for undergraduates and recent graduates to find out what scientific research was all about.

“Students get to learn how to design experiments, make measurements, and analyse scientific results while working on real, exciting and cutting-edge research problems being investigated by researchers at Southern Cross University,” he said.

“It is also a great opportunity to learn about the sorts of research projects that are possible at Southern Cross University, and to meet other likeminded people.”

The program is open to all budding scientists and researchers from across the country and around the world.

The school runs from January 5 to 30 with the support the University’s Special Research Centres Southern Cross GeoScience and Southern Cross Plant Science, along with the School of Environment, Science and Engineering.

Projects available include:

- ‘Environmental chemistry of coastal wetlands: Acid sulfate soils, element cycling, water quality and wetland sustainability’, supervisor: Professor Richard Bush (Southern Cross GeoScience)

- ‘Let there be light: sunlight-driven photochemistry of floodwaters’, supervisor: Associate Professor Andrew Rose (Southern Cross GeoScience)

- ‘Manipulation of iron bioavailability by marine cyanobacteria’, supervisor: Associate Professor Andrew Rose (Southern Cross GeoScience)

- ‘Development of novel photolabile base compounds to study fast mineral formation reactions’, supervisor: Prof Andrew Rose (Southern Cross GeoScience)

- ‘Temporal changes in clay fractions during resuspension of sulfidic sediments’, supervisor: Dr Girish Choppala (Southern Cross GeoScience)

- ‘Mineral characterisation during aging/transformation processes’, supervisor: Dr Ellen Moon (Southern Cross GeoScience)

- ‘Comparison of oxalate levels in the native spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioides, compared to commercial spinach’, supervisors: Dr Bronwyn J. Barkla and Dr Lei Liu (Southern Cross Plant Science)

- ‘Rice starch branching enzyme’, supervisor: Dr Daniel Waters (Southern Cross Plant Science)

- ‘Assessing and managing the risk of exotic gene flow from locally exotic Corymbia plantations’, supervisor: Dr Merv Shepherd (Southern Cross Plant Science)

- ‘Optimisation of CropStoreDB: interactive database and interface for crop genetics’, supervisors: Dr Abdul Baten and Prof Graham J. King (Southern Cross Plant Science)

- ‘Computational gene identification in subtropical rainforest species’, supervisor: Dr Abdul Baten (Southern Cross Plant Science)

Full details of the projects and an application form can be downloaded from the 2015 Science Summer School website.

There is no course fee charged to successful applicants. For more information, call 02 6620 3519.
Photo: Susan Oeding in the lab.