Rob Duca

Student spotlight details

Rob progressed on from an engineering background to study and find a new career path in nanotechnology.

‘I originally obtained an undergraduate degree in electrical and computer systems engineering in Australia. After several years in the workforce I felt a change was needed, and that I would like to try to move away from a ‘traditional’ engineering role and towards an area of rapidly evolving science.

'I chose to move away from a traditional engineering vocation, and towards interdisciplinary science but was unsure of the exact field I wanted to pursue. After doing some preliminary reading about nanotechnology, I had more questions than answers. I was hooked.

'Although I was extremely interested in the course syllabus, I initially did not think I was ‘worthy’ of applying to Oxford. However, after mentioning to my peers that I may have found the course I had been looking for, they strongly encouraged me to apply. I was subsequently offered a place and have never looked back. 

'Having completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Nanotechnology, I knew I had finally found the career path I had been looking for. I subsequently completed the MSc in Nanotechnology for Medicine and Health Care, which also was an amazing experience. 

'Coming from an engineering and technical background, all my previous assessment had been in the form of three-hour sit-down exams. It was quite a challenge to adjust to essay based assessment. Initially these were quite intimidating as they required discipline, focus and the adoption of different thought processes, forms of learning and written expression. 

'Although the assessments were challenging, it did not take long to realise that this mode of assessment suited me perfectly. It is an ideal way to learn and explore my own interests. I now feel confident, and enjoy exploring new areas of science, reading mounds of academic papers to find interesting and relevant topics, forming ideas and opinions and subsequently expressing them in writing.

'The most rewarding part of the Postgraduate Certificate and Master of Science degree is that I was exposed to cutting edge technology, with the many applications that are still in their infancy. 

'I also found the coursework modules rewarding as they helped to develop my ability to confidently learn new fields of science. The classes and assessment were also presented in such a way that I could follow my own unique interests.

'The research component of the Masters degree was also extremely rewarding. I was placed at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) where I was given the opportunity to do undertake real research in a laboratory setting under the supervision of some amazing academic researchers.

'As I progressed through the coursework modules, I developed a strong interest in the application of nanotechnology in microfluidic based technology. This drove me to pursue my masters research project in the topic, where I developed a novel device capable of characterising therapeutic microbubbles. I found the experience of undertaking a complex and difficult research project to be exciting and extremely rewarding. This drove me to look at the possibility of further studies.

'Following the completion of the masters program, I was offered an international merit award by the University of Concordia in Canada to study for a Doctor of Philosophy degree. My research is now focussed on developing interesting microfluidic technology for genetic engineering and synthetic biology applications. 

'I would suggest that if you are at all interested in nanotechnology, don’t hesitate in applying! You may be pleasantly surprised and fascinated by this rapidly evolving field and how it applies to practically all areas of industry! Since nanotechnology is multidisciplinary and extremely broad, you will most likely find yourself extremely interested in multiple areas of nanotechnology research! 

'In addition to the intellectual rewards offered by the program, it also offers the opportunity to open many doors in a range of interesting career pathways, just as it has for myself.

'Also, the academic and administrative staff throughout the duration of both programs were extremely approachable and supportive.  I have never felt like I have had so many people interested in watching me achieve my full academic potential!'

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