There are good dreams, bad dreams and daydreams, but for Susan, nothing beats data dreams.
Susan's love for data
The biochemist and science education specialist recalls waking up night after night during one research project that involved bacterial protein experiments using nuclear magnetic resonance.
“It looked like Tetris, this data we’d get, and I’d be there asleep with these pieces of protein moving around in my field of view while I was dreaming,” she says.
“It was all-encompassing. To find out something new is one of the most exciting things in the world.”
Susan teaches biochemistry and introductory cell biology at the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences (SCMB), drawing on her years of work in both Australia and the United States in such areas as bacterial cell division and protein signal sensing.
She wants students starting their science careers at UQ to be excited to take a leap into the great unknown.
“Science is beautiful, biochemistry is beautiful,” she says.
“If students come away with a sense of wonder about the intricacies of life, I’m happy.”
Susan's role at UQ
Susan is also the Deputy Associate Dean Academic for the Faculty of Science, a role that focuses on teaching, research and innovation in science education. This part of her career began in 2006 when she and her husband, a fellow academic, returned from the US with their two young children, and she took up teaching and researching at UQ.
She completed a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education in 2007 and was appointed as a full-time teaching-focused faculty member in SCMB 2 years later, bringing full circle a passion sparked by her own science teacher father.
“My hero that I grew up with was my Dad, because he was happy for me to ask any question I wanted,” she recalls.
Susan says if her father didn’t know the answer, they would read and research together, sometimes even performing small experiments on their farm in an effort to get that all-important data.
“That sense that there was nothing off limits in terms of wondering about knowledge, that was just wonderful... it made me who I am, I think.”
Susan's teaching approach
Susan and her research team are a key part of UQ’s strategy to offer students that same sense of exploration from the get-go, focusing on best practice undergraduate research experiences. This sees students design and implement experiments that are part of a real research stream from a working lab, gaining real-time and real-world insight.
“There’s not a lot of spoon-feeding here, there’s not a lot of hand-holding, and there are a lot of challenges,” she says.
“What we’re trying to do is produce students and graduates who own their learning, think for themselves and solve problems. That’s something really, really powerful and it’s something employers look for.”