GAF Story

Declan Fahey

University of Tasmania
Bachelor of Biotechnology and Medical Research

Declan Fahey, UTAS scholar

Catch up with Declan, a fourth-year student studying a Bachelor of Biotechnology and Medical Research with Honours at the University of Tasmania's School of Medicine.

How has a George Alexander Foundation scholarship influenced your time at university? What has it made possible?

The George Alexander Foundation scholarship program had a profound impact on my time at university. One of the many features that I believe contributes to the success of the scholarship program is how it aims to improve access to education for students with financial needs from rural and remote regions of Australia. The evidence shows that students from rural and remote regions have reduced access to education services compared to students from metropolitan areas. These students attend school less frequently, are less likely to go to university and are more likely to drop out of their chosen course(s) if they choose to enrol.

The financial support afforded by the George Alexander Foundation scholarship has enabled me to live away from home for three years. It eliminated the financial pressures of moving away to pursue tertiary study and travelling back home to see my family. Instead, it afforded me the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals, engage in university life, establish a network of friends and mentors, and participate in a number of physical and recreational activities outside of teaching hours. I believe that these are important opportunities for a young person making the jump into adulthood. I hope that this program will continue to encourage young Australians from rural and remote backgrounds to take this step towards furthering their education.

Congratulations on recently completing your undergraduate degree! What comes next?

In 2017, I will be commencing my fourth year at university to study a Bachelor of Biotechnology and Medical Research with Honours with the University of Tasmania's School of Medicine. Over the course of the last three years, my peers and I were given the opportunity to conduct research projects that were designed to complement our lecture content. We were also introduced to some commonly-used research techniques utilised in research laboratories.

This year, I have been given to opportunity to put all of these skills to good use when I conduct my own research project under the supervision of the School of Medicine. My research focus is cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition that affects the lungs and digestive system. It is caused by a fault in a gene that is important for controlling the movement of salt in and out of cells. People with cystic fibrosis produce large amounts of thick, sticky mucus within their lungs and digestive system. The mucus traps bacteria within the airways of the lungs, resulting in long-term infections that damage the lungs. Antibiotic drugs are unsuccessful at removing these types of infections. The aim of my study will be to identify the way in which certain bacteria become resistant to antibiotic therapies. Understanding this pathway will be important when developing new therapies for people with long-term lung infections.

How do you think your experience as a GAF scholar will help you achieve your future goals?

A George Alexander Foundation scholarship has enabled me to pursue my education in a world-class research environment. The ongoing financial security that the scholarship provided has allowed me to dedicate my time to my studies. As a result, I was able to work towards completing my undergraduate degree and achieving the high academic outcomes that I expected of myself.

The qualifications that I will obtain through the University of Tasmania will enable me to actively seek out employment in future years. Combined with further education and post-graduate study, I believe that I will be well-positioned to secure employment within the health sector, enabling me to fulfil my personal goals and contribute to our society by helping to relieve Australia's disease burden.

What would you say to students considering applying for a George Alexander Foundation scholarship?

To those students currently considering whether to apply for a George Alexander Foundation scholarship, I would say this… please do! Opportunities like this are often few and far between. I believe that it is important for you to give yourself each and every opportunity to further your education because you never know where such an opportunity might take you!

Gaze into the crystal ball…where do you see yourself ten years from now?

My studies with the University of Tasmania have helped me to appreciate the complex nature of human health and disease and the difficulties that are associated with finding treatments/cures for these conditions. I am a very analytically-minded individual and have always enjoyed the research process, so I can certainly see myself working as part of an Australian research team helping to develop a cure for one of the many health conditions that impact our society. I would like to pursue additional post-graduate study (PhD) or full-time employment in future years and assist in the training of new enthusiastic young minds in the areas of mathematics and science.