Jenna is a second-year university student spending her summer with our vacation program. Although she didn't think she'd end up here. At age 14 she was going to be a tattoo artist.
Fast-forward to now and she’s working as a vacation student alongside our scientists at the Australian e-Health Research Centre [Link will open in a new window](AEHRC). It’s not where teenage Jenna thought she’d be, but she couldn’t be happier.
Painting outside the lines
Art runs in Jenna’s family – her grandfather is a professional artist.
High school was where she really found her love of art. Drawing, in particular, took her fancy. That's when she decided she was going to be a tattoo artist.
But her interests evolved over time.
"I started painting a lot more in my senior years of high school. I kind of fell down the oil painting route, which I’ve very much enjoyed," Jenna said.
Her academic journey tells a similar story. In her later years of high school, Jenna found herself intrigued by the mysteries of science. By the time she began at The University of Queensland[Link will open in a new window] she couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Jenna started with biochemistry then dabbled in plant science. But an ‘intro to software engineering’ course changed the trajectory of her studies.
"I didn’t really think I would like programming before I started doing it, but I did. And I got good at it, and I thought ‘I’m going to keep doing this!’ It changed my whole path," she said.
She decided to switch to bioinformatics, which involves developing and using software tools to analyse biological data.
“I’m not where I thought I’d be two years ago,” she said.
And that’s perfectly ok with Jenna. She’s loving her degree and the opportunities it's given her, including this one.
Bringing her vision to life
Jenna is working with her supervisor, AEHRC’s Dr Aaron Nicolson[Link will open in a new window], to generate medical images using artificial intelligence (AI).
“The goal of the project is to develop a ‘report to X-ray image’ synthesis pipeline. Wherein, a chest X-ray report is entered into a system and a chest X-ray image is outputted,” Jenna said.
They’re excited about the tool’s potential uses.
“Ideally, it would be used in clinical settings, but also to produce new datasets for further research,” she said.
Synthesising images is a big topic in medical imaging research. Using artificial images can help overcome medical data scarcity and mitigate privacy concerns surrounding the use of patient data.
Sketching out her future
Having only finished two years of university so far – despite having achieved so much already – Jenna isn’t sure where exactly her future lies.
“I’m really interested in machine learning, so I would like to get into that field, whether it’s in industry or in research. I also like the bio space – genomics and multi-omics – and I’m passionate about health,” she said.
But no matter what happens in her career, it's clear that Jenna will make it work.
“I often throw myself into things that I find very difficult and challenging… I just go for it! And I get better, and I find the resources I need to overcome challenges,” she said.
She wants other science students to go for it too.
“Trying lots of new things is really important. So is meeting people. Not only academics and industry people, but people at uni who are also doing interesting things. Getting out there, seeing what’s available, and getting direction from other people is great,” she said.
The future of science is in good hands with young people like Jenna leading the way.