Laura Franssen

Laura Franssen

Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours) in Microbiology student

Science is what makes up the world around us, says Laura Franssen who is currently completing a Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours) in Microbiology.

“I believe that science provides a playground of opportunities to try to explain what previously couldn’t be explained. A science degree offers so many fascinating majors, from learning about geology and how those pretty crystals you keep in your room are made for learning microbiology to why eating raw chicken makes your stomach hurt. With science you can be creative, innovative and the world's your oyster when it comes to what you can achieve through research.”

Her fascination for science started early.

“One Christmas in my younger years I was gifted a microscope and telescope, and I adored using them. I’d tell my aunt that one day I'll work at NASA. Unbelievable to think that I now use microscopes most days and have ended up researching in an area known as astrobiology, which has connections to NASA.”

The right university environment
For Laura, her AUT journey started when she attended an AUT open day and realised this was the right university for her.

“I’m originally from Dannevirke and went to school in Palmerston North, but after coming to the open day at AUT and seeing the culture and vibrance it had, I knew my decision was made. I knew I was going to study at AUT. By moving to a city where I knew nobody, I redefined myself and became completely independent. It was hard at times being away from home, but it made me the person I am today, and the opportunities AUT has provided me are once in a lifetime.

“I chose microbiology as my major but at first I wasn’t entirely sure of what industry I would end up in or what niche fields it covered. But in my first year, my lecturer Associate Professor Donnabella Lacap-Bugler gave a lecture on extremophiles; microorganisms that live in the most extreme environments like deserts. Ever since I had my eyes on microbial ecology and am now doing my honours doing a project around the microbial ecology of Atacama soil samples.”

The people she met are what she has enjoyed most about studying at AUT, Laura says.

“What I’ve enjoyed the most about my experience at AUT is making connections; the friends I’ve made but also the supervisors who took me under their wing. That is a massive difference to other universities across the country. No peers of mine at other universities have half the relationship I do with my lecturers and supervisors.”

Advice for other students
Laura’s advice for other students is simple: make the most out of your time at university.

“Take those opportunities. Talk to your classmates and your lecturers. I think people have this perception that staff and postgraduate students aren’t willing to help. But it’s quite the opposite; we all are so willing to help and want to see you thrive, so just ask.

“Remember that you’re so much more than the grade you receive on an exam. Don’t let a bad grade set you back; use it as motivation to do better.”

Now in her fourth year at university, Laura is proud of how far she has come since her early days at AUT.

“Like a lot of people are when they begin university, I was anxious and stressed, and very doubtful of my own capability. But with the continuous support of my peers and staff at AUT I’ve been able to realise my potential and have increased my belief in myself. This year I’ll be completing my honours dissertation, and the plan after this is to fast-track into a doctorate programme centered around microbial ecology and astrobiology.”

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