Alumni Spotlight: Emily Lau


Hi there! I am a second year uni student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I am majoring in biological sciences with a concentration in human physiology. There's nothing I love more than an adrenaline rush, so if you know any good places to jump out of an airplane, bungee jump from a building, or come in close contact with dangerous animals feel free to let me know.

Why did you pick this program?

Currently I am working in the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. Although I am not planning on pursuing research as a career, the scientific process and troubleshooting that is practiced within the laboratory will provide me with a foundation in medicine while I pursue a career as a medical doctor.

Working in research is extremely complex, yet so rewarding. Everyday I go to work, I am running trials and looking at results of things that NO ONE has ever seen before. Each day is completely different. I have had much success with my project pertaining to scabies disease thus far, and it is truly incredible to say that I have pioneered my way to some of the newest results pertaining to the disease.

What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?

To start a blog! I have the best time going back through old pictures and memories of my excursions.

What is the most important thing you learned abroad?

That I haven't seen anything yet. I have merely scraped the surface of the places I wish to go, and I can't wait to embark on so many future adventures.

What was the hardest part about going abroad?

It's so much new! It can be so exciting yet so draining when every single thing in your daily life becomes something unknown. Having to scope out every place you wish to go, even something as simple as getting groceries or mailing a post card can be quite difficult when you don't know a single person or how to get anywhere.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

We were in Cairns. I was scuba diving. My scuba instructor showed us every creature from the movie Finding Nemo, from squirt the turtle to nemo (clown fish) himself. I was delighted. He then made the hand gesture for a shark. I looked down and there was this three meter shark chilling below us. Do you know how hard it is to scream with scuba gear on?

What made this experience unique and special?

My mindset has been completely changed. At uni in the States, I am in a rush 100% of the time. I can barely get my thoughts together, let alone listen to those of others. This internship has taught me the value that others' can bring to your life, and how much you can learn from simply having a coffee with someone.

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.

I think simply being placed in a location, where I am a day's journey (by plane) from anyone I previously knew and from any place I previously knew is an experience. You have to pioneer your way through each part of your life, which can be tricky but also fun and opportunistic for exploring.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Medical research IS HARD. For every 19 failures, I get 1 success. But the 19 failures build character, more than the 1 success ever will.

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions, future path?

I never thought I would be able to navigate so effectively. Not just with directions, but in meeting and getting to know others as well as immersing myself in a new culture.

Name one thing you did on this trip that you will tell your kids about.

In one day, just 24 hours, I jumped from a plane, took a helicopter ride, went scuba diving, almost got eaten by a shark, and found nemo.