Just a few years ago, Amanda Lee arrived in Melbourne as an international student. She moved here from her home in Singapore, aiming to complete a science degree with a double major – in Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

In August 2016, Amanda Lee accepted a role as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, after completing her PhD and Fellowship contract at the University of Melbourne.

“I could have gone to America, Europe or Australia to study, but ultimately, Australia is much closer to home and I had a cousin living in Melbourne.”

University open day in Singapore

Amanda researched and attended university open days held in Singapore by Victorian institutions and applied to the University of Melbourne. It was also important to her that the science courses at the University of Melbourne are well recognised internationally.

‘When I arrived in Melbourne, my course coordinators helped me structure my studies to achieve my goal of a double major, which then enabled me to undertake a PhD in my chosen area of study – cancer research.’

After completing her PhD - studying brain cancer in flies - Amanda is excited to now be working in an area with human application. She is currently on Professor Ian Campbell’s team at ‘Peter Mac’, assisting in research on breast and ovarian cancer. The focus of her work is the search for and study of genes that cause these cancers to run in families.

‘Postdoctoral research work is hard to find. It is highly competitive. I feel very lucky to have this role, and to be doing this work.’

Staying focused

From the time she arrived in Melbourne as an international student, Amanda has maintained her focus, which has probably played a part in her achievements so far. She also received a Victorian International Research Scholarship (VIRS) and a Cancer Council Fellowship. Before coming here as an international student she swam competitively and applied the same focus to her studies as she had to swimming training.

However, Amanda also knows the value of a balanced approach to life. She loves living in Melbourne and has embraced life here. Amanda practices yoga and participates in Melbourne’s yoga community. She also has a frozen yoghurt food truck that she operates in the summertime.

‘I remember that early in my studies here a PhD candidate gave me some advice to always take the opportunity to enjoy the time you have, because moments are very fleeting. I believe that’s very true.’

Part time work built connections and skills

On her journey from undergraduate science student to Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Amanda Lee did part time work as a lab technician and as a demonstrator, which helped her build connections and skills that are important in her current role and will be with her throughout her professional life.

'Let things unfold'

‘If I could go back and talk to the me of five years ago, I would tell myself to just let things unfold. Back then, I could not have imagined being where I am, yet when I look at how these things have happened I see that sometimes it was about hard work, sometimes it was just being at the “right place and the right time” and sometimes, it’s learning to identify and create opportunities for yourself.’