Graduate profile - Hamish Clarke

Biochemistry and Neuroscience Graduate

Hamish Clarke

Career path

Combined Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Arts in International Studies (UTS, 2001)
Bachelor of Science (Advanced) with first class Honours (USyd, 2006)

Currently working for the Dept of Environment and Climate Change as a Policy Officer, and a freelance science writer.

Advice from someone who’s been there “Follow your interests - talk to people, ask a lot of questions, get involved. Don’t worry if yours is not a conventional path. You'll quickly learn what you like and what you're good at. Of course it helps to know that there are some really fantastic lecturers and academics here too. Apart from imparting knowledge and providing inspiration, they’re a fantastic resource to tap into - for ideas, advice and support.”

When you meet Hamish Clarke for the first time, you can’t help but feel inspired. Currently working for the Department of Environment and Climate Change as a Policy Officer, Hamish is keeping busy coordinating the state government's response to climate change, preparing policies, and maintaining parts of the department’s website. He also does some freelance writing for the science magazine Cosmos.

To get to where he is today, Hamish completed a combined Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, then a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) with first class Honours, majoring in both Biochemistry and Neuroscience.

When asked why he chose these particular majors, Hamish said: “Biochemistry appealed to my sense of awe for complexity, plus I really enjoyed the lectures. If I wanted to be provocative I’d say it was more interesting than chemistry and more rigorous than biology. Of course, I’m not the provocative type.”

“As far as neuroscience is concerned, it’s been a pet project of mine for some time to come up with the one true theory of consciousness. I’m still no closer to this, but learning the basics of the nervous system was fascinating. I think every human being should get a chance to learn about how the mind works and what goes on inside their cells.”

Hamish found that there were some unexpected yet exciting aspects to his studies… “It was a real privilege and a pleasure to learn about and ponder so many amazing things. I was also lucky enough to have some great lecturers - passionate, intelligent and well prepared. I often picked their brains about a host of relevant and irrelevant topics, and they were unfailingly generous with their time.”

“I didn’t really have any fixed expectations coming into my Science degree. This freed me up to enjoy myself and make the most of whatever opportunities came my way. And hey, if you don’t have expectations then you can’t be disappointed. On a more serious note, I believe coming in as a mature aged student was a big factor in my time here –I was focused, better able to relate to staff and not afraid to ask questions.”

How did your studies at Sydney Uni help you get to where you are now?

“For starters my manager tells me my academic record certainly helped me secure my current job. Being passionate and able to write about many different areas of science also helped me get a start as a freelance science writer. On the flip side, doing my Honours year helped me realise that I’m not ready to commit to a PhD. The degree I chose helped me realise that I’m also interested in the social context of science – how it’s used, who benefits and who pays. Also, I learned that I enjoy thinking about ‘big picture’ questions, not just the nitty gritty (although they’re often related).”

How was the TSP different from your other undergraduate study?

”The TSP was fairly unstructured and gave me the freedom to pursue areas that interested me – in my case using microbiology to try to solve some environmental problems. It also gave me the chance to do some relatively independent lab work – a great introduction to the joys of Honours research.”

… and the best part of being involved in the TSP?

”Getting to have a go at my own research project, and getting to mentor some talented first year students were the highlights. And I won’t lie, it was a nice boost to the ego to be told you’re a talented student!”