Brittney Phillips

I came to La Trobe University not knowing what I wanted to do with my future. I chose La Trobe on the recommendations of some friends who went there and were really enjoying themselves. I selected a chemistry degree because it was my favourite subject in high school and hoped for the best. By the time third year rolled around, I’d learned a lot and made some great friends but still didn’t know what to do once I’d graduated.

Luckily, I was finding the environmental microbiology topic I was learning about fascinating. Bacteria that can “breathe” metals? Amazing! A little while later we learned that you can also “feed” these bacteria electricity and they can produce any number of chemical commodities including carbon neutral biofuel! It was a revelation and I knew what I needed to do with my life. I got a little bit teary after that lecture having realised I’d found a really exciting purpose and perhaps the days of worrying about what to do with my future were over. My friends noticed, I explained, and to this day they text me every year to remind me of the anniversary of my life-changing epiphany.

I was accepted into Honours in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology lab where I worked on syntrophic interactions between electrogens and won the ASM Vic Branch award for presenting that research. The cohort from microbiology in my Honours year was full of talented people who all built each other up and were proud of each other’s achievements. This kind of environment makes for really great science where we sought to get the best out of ourselves and each other. I learned such a great deal and grew so much as a budding research scientist.

Honours at La Trobe truly was the greatest year of my life (so far!).