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Research discovery starts in the classroom

Biomedical student, Chris Hunter, has traded the comfort of home in tropical far north Queensland for the bustling streets of Brisbane where he is studying his degree.

When Chris landed himself a place in Griffith’s Bachelor of Biomedical Science program, he embarked on a familiar rite of passage for many, leaving the comforts of home to pursue a university education.

A country kid at heart, Chris, admits he still misses his hometown of the Atherton Tablelands, popular with tourists for its lush natural beauty.

“I miss the quiet and being able to walk outside and jump on my motorbike. There is more freedom and you don’t need money to enjoy nature. Everything is more expensive in the city,” he said.

Living independently and a two-days drive from home has been challenging for Chris in other ways too, especially in his first year.

“It’s hard moving away from the support of friends and family. I don’t have anyone here to fall back on. I was working at least 20 to 30 hours a week at KFC to cover my living expenses, which made it hard for me to study as much as I needed to,” he said.

Chris is also the first person in his family to go to university and was unable to turn to anyone for advice when he needed it.

“It was a big change for me going straight from year 12 to university. It’s been a huge learning curve in terms of training myself to focus and managing my time better. My family didn’t really know what to expect and couldn’t really help because they didn’t understand.”

The Students’ Future Fund scholarship helped relieve some of the stress on Chris and allowed him to cut back on work to focus on his studies.

“I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay for things like textbooks, or bills or keeping a roof over my head,” he said.

With more time to focus, Chris hopes to get into the honours program and secure a placement at a research institute. His main passion is the field of immunology, particularly infectious disease and cancer research.

“I’ve always been interested in how diseases work and to be able to explain that simply to others. Studying science at high school made me curious as to how diseases work. My family has a history of genetic disease, which is why I became interested in studying a biomedical science degree,” he said.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic poses a particular risk to more vulnerable members of society.

“I’m worried about the implications for some members of the community. It’s really bad for immunocompromised people and the elderly,” he said.

“It is really important to educate people on how the virus works, particularly people who may be complacent about its impact.”

The current global health crisis highlights the importance of education and ensuring students like Chris can continue their studies.

“The students who receive this scholarship are the future of the country. I want to become a researcher to help others, and the people who support this scholarship are helping me to do that,” he said.

“They don’t have to donate their hard-earned money, but they do, and I want them to know they are really making a difference. It really takes the pressure off and is helping me be the best that I can be.”