Henry Chung has always liked the natural world.
“What I liked even more was knowing how natural things worked, right down to the biological and microscopic levels.”
His degree at the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Science was the perfect way to fulfil this curiosity.
Henry majored in biotechnology, and especially enjoyed microbiology, where he learned about the surprising capabilities of microscopic organisms – like breaking down plastic and oil.
“If you apply biotechnology to this, you have an innovative, mother-nature approved solution to human problems.”
Henry continued onto a PhD, where his project focused on activating specific genes to turn human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells. These cells can develop into any kind of cell in the body and have many potential uses in medicine, like replacing damaged cells with healthy ones.
Henry’s team used a technology pioneered by a Japanese research group led by Shinya Yamanaka, who went on to share the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for discovering that cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.
“My supervisor kept telling me that we were the first group in Australia to have done this. I guess being the first of anything tends to make people proud.”
Henry is now a medical writer at a communications agency with offices all around the world. The agency works mainly with pharmaceutical companies who are developing therapies for an ever growing range of conditions.
“The list of diseases is endless, from diabetes to rare diseases like paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria.”
Medical writers in agencies have traditionally focused on writing about clinical trials in high-impact journals, but Henry is interested in expanding what he does.
“In this digital age, our target audiences’ attention span is only getting shorter, so we need to innovate.”
His work keeps him connected to the latest research in science and medicine.
“I can see myself still being a medical writer 10 years from now. When there are medical advances happening around the world, I get to satisfy my hunger for knowledge. It’s a bit like reading New Scientist every day, and getting paid to do it.”
He attributes his success to the skills and knowledge he gained in his degree, along with some great mentors who helped him learn on the job.
“Having the right person to tell you what’s good and what’s not is crucial.”
He is also excited about the many other potential applications of a science degree.
“I would like to see new jobs pop up that people have not even heard of today and that ultimately solve some real-world problems.”