Looking back on my science degree

Reflecting on the last three years studying science at Sydney
At the end of his third year of university, Bachelor of Science (Advanced) student William Zhou looks back on his experiences and shares his advice.

We last caught up with William two years ago when he shared what his first year of uni was really like. Now finishing his degree, he reflects on the last three years studying science at Sydney.

William Zhou, Bachelor of Science (Advanced) Student


What an adventure my last 3 years at the University of Sydney has been! At the end of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I decided on the Bachelor of Science (Advanced) because it gave me the flexibility to try subjects across the entire university and undertake really challenging units of study.

In my first year, I mainly studied science units - physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics. I also took electives (outside of science), learning about famous speeches and moments in history. During this time, I was able to discover a passion for subjects I had never even heard of before.

I didn’t know what statistics was before Year 12, but at the end of my first year I was so inspired by my lecturers Dr Diana Warren and Dr Garth Tarr that I decided to continue pursuing it into my second AND third year. I also got to take part in the Special Studies Program where I undertook research as an undergraduate with Dr Alice Motion discovering new antimalarial drugs. This was such a fascinating experience, that gave me invaluable insight into what research was like.

Outside of uni I’m a keen cyclist - I’ve always wondered how to ride faster and longer. This led me to studying a biochemistry elective in my second year with A/Professor Gareth Denyer. We learnt the fundamentals of exercise, its impact and the metabolic functions of our bodies. One and a half years later I still apply many things I learnt in the course. I also got lucky and met my girlfriend in the biochemistry lab (so that’s also a plus, I guess).

William Zhou, Bachelor of Science (Advanced) student at Open Day with a group of students

William Zhou, Bachelor of Science (Advanced) student at Open Day with other student ambassadors

Throughout the year the Careers Centre puts on so many networking events with industry professionals for students across all degrees. There, I met lots of University of Sydney science graduates who shared how they were using their skills in their full-time jobs.

I was lucky enough to be asked to interview for an internship position at a consulting firm which I was successful in obtaining. I had never thought of myself as someone who could work in business, but I realised that studying a science degree had equipped me with a critical way of thinking and problem solving that I could harness in the industry.

While consulting was really exciting, I wanted to gain further experience in research and make a contribution to the science community. I was lucky enough to undertake research projects in chemistry in my third year, one with Dr Ivan Kassal looking at new ground breaking solar panel technology and the other with Dr Ron Baker extracting natural products as potential drugs! It was actually very difficult having so much freedom to shape my own research and take sole control, however, I was very lucky that my science cohort was incredibly supportive and encouraging in helping advance my research.

For future students out there in Year 12, I would recommend taking every opportunity you get and exploring different things. By doing so you get to make so many incredible friends and grow as a person.

I would also encourage everyone to go on exchange! So many of my friends have come back transformed after going on exchange (and their Instagram feeds are absolutely beaming). And while I had always thought it would be expensive going on exchange, there are actually a lot of exchange scholarships to help support students.

These past 3 years have been some of the best years of my life… but hopefully I might be back in the near future! I hope to see you then soon.

14 December 2018