Saving lives by creating artificial organs or through revolutionary stem cell research are dream achievements that first year biomedical engineering student Jessica Hall feels are now within reach.
The 18-year-old achieved an ATAR of 92.4 last year, after completing the Higher School Certificate at Great Lakes Senior College.
She’s is now studying a Bachelor of Science (Bioengineering Systems) at Melbourne University, a 14- hour drive away from her home town of Forster on the NSW Mid-North Coast.
Her family unit became very close after her parents’ divorce, Jess saying that her move to Melbourne was particularly poignant for her Mum and Grandma given she was the youngest, and “last to leave the nest”.
“It definitely has taken an emotional toll…it’s very hard to move from a small country town to Melbourne. When I came here, I knew absolutely no one.”
As only the second person in her immediate family to go to university, Jess is determined not to let “significant financial pressures” – or the tyranny of distance – get in the way of her further education.
Jessica has received a $2400 Great Lakes Education Fund scholarship along with a $2,500 Country Education of Australia National scholarship, sponsored by the Audi Foundation for STEM-related study.
“I’m not the richest. I’m keeping my head above water with Centrelink and the Country Education Foundation. I couldn’t have done all this without all the support,” she said.
As a high-achieving teen, Jess keenly felt pressure to perform well in her HSC on behalf not only herself, but for her family.
“There were such high expectations placed on me as a high achiever in Great Lakes … and I’ve always had a lot of self-doubt.”
While there’s still stress about performing at university, she said it’s more about encouraging an exploration of potential than being defined by a number.
“This is a massive step up from high school. It’s about being self-motivated. The teaching style is very different. It’s not one-on-one. There’s over 300 people in lectures and there’s group tutorials,” she said.
“I’m really in my element … I’m only starting this massive journey, but I know it’s going to be worth it.”
After the three-year bachelor, Jess plans on completing a Masters Degree in Engineering to become a biomedical engineer.
“I like the creative side of engineering, as well as the scientific logical thinking and problem-solving. I look forward to changing people’s life through medicine,” she said.
“I want to make Country Education Foundation of Australia proud. I want to make my Mum proud. I want to make Forster proud.”