Story Teller Series: Life – a learning journey
The first in IAJN’s ‘Story Teller’ series, Australian Scientist and education enthusiast, Emma-Jane Watson shares her story.
Life - a learning journey
As children we easily absorb everything around us. As adults, it is a lot harder to learn because we form opinions and preferences and close ourselves up to information. This is why it is so important to never stop asking; why, where, how, when and what if?
|My name is Emma, and I am a scientist by day and criminologist by night. That may sound like a good character theme for a super hero but I am no super hero, I just love to learn. I never want to stop learning! There are so many wonderful things in our universe to learn about and as a scientist I know there are so many more to be discovered.|
In my professional career
I am continually learning new analytical methodologies, technologies and skills. This is an essential element for all staff at my research organisation so we remain current in a fast moving and highly competitive industry. This is what makes my job so interesting, the necessity for me to be learning all the time, pushing myself to become more knowledgeable and challenging myself to become an expert in new technologies and research areas.
As much as I love everything about my job I also enjoy studying things outside the realm of my professional career. This is why I study a Masters in Criminology and Criminal Justice through Griffith University, Australia.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.
I grew up in a small country town where I attended high school and learnt how to work hard on the farm. My country life taught me to how to pick grapes, cut apricots, fix cars, look after the chickens, cows and sheep and I even helped my father build a small aeroplane. As a child I always wanted to be a lawyer but as I neared the completion of high school I realised that I was more suited to a laboratory. I moved to Adelaide city where I received my Bachelor of Biotechnology with Honors from Flinders University. My Honors project investigated symbiotic bacteria in wheat plants and how we might stop disease and increase growth rate by inoculating the seeds with beneficial bacteria. This project was very successful and since then other students have gone on to develop the concept further. I left plants behind me and moved to humans. I now work in gastrointestinal health and study symbiotic gut bacteria and how they can prevent disease and improve total wellbeing.
|In 2013 I took a break and moved to Vietnam where I taught science to students of all ages. In Vietnam I learnt how to be a teacher, I learnt how to speak limited Vietnamese, I learnt how to ride a motor bike, and I learnt how I missed my family when I was so far away. So I moved back to Australia and continued my work in gastrointestinal health.|
While all of this was happening I started my Masters of Criminology and Criminal Justice and after several years of part time study I am now nearing its completion. Many people ask me what I intend to do with my Master’s degree. I cannot answer this yet as I am not really sure. But I do know that the study of my Master’s has given me many things aside from the theory and skills to work in the field of Criminology.
I will outline a few of these things briefly.
- It has taught me to think differently. My professional career requires that I test and observe mechanisms of the human body in detail. Criminology sits in a sociology setting where interpretation of research is very different to mechanistic biology.
- I have become more sympathetic to the range of life situations people find themselves in. I now have a solid understanding that societies are big, loud and complex creatures with a wide range of different individuals with different beliefs, wants, needs, stressors and characteristics. It is no small feat to ensure these societies run smoothly.
- And I have learnt a lot about myself, my behaviours and how they could be viewed differently by different cultures or in different situations. What determines if something is a crime, it is an exercise in philosophical thinking.
My Master’s degree
has allowed me to apply different skills to a different field of study, learn a whole range of interesting concepts and theories, as well as challenge and change some of my opinions and beliefs and I am now a different person.
What do I have planned for the future?
I intend to study more.
Study doesn’t need to be about career development.
It should be done because you love it and want to develop as a person. It is about the desire to obtain knowledge and you can get this knowledge from many different sources. It can be picking up a book about something you don’t understand, talking to people from different industries, cultures and countries, watching a documentary that discusses a topic from a different angle to your beliefs, and of course the internet is a fabulous thing.
Study not only gives you a parchment,
it also teaches you to question the world and what you are told about it. Question why things are done and if they can be done better. Question why things happen and how we can prevent it. Even question why we can’t do something and determine how we can. This is how knowledge, technologies, societies and the human species as a whole moves forward. The world has so much information to offer and it is all out there for you to grab.
|So once you have finished that degree, masters, doctorate or landed that dream job, don’t stop learning. Your study has given you the tools to start your learning journey, otherwise known as life. So go out there, learn a new language, learn how to knit, learn how to cook, learn about an ancient race, learn how to fix a car. All of these things will gift you a wide range of knowledge, develop you as a person, make you more open to ideas and concepts, allow you to contribute in many different forums and help you leave your mark on the world. Go forth and learn.|
|EMMA-JANE WATSON has worked in the field of science for over 10 years for one of the world’s leading scientific organisations, CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation). Emma is not only passionate about self-driven learning but is an advocate for sharing knowledge, evident in her work as an educator and facilitator of work experience programs.|