Science ensuring we’re not The Last of Us

When Emma Kuhn (BSc (Microbiology) ’19, BSc(Hons) (Environment) ’20, GradDipEnvHlthPrac ’21) first
decided that her goal was to earn a job working in a real lab, she initially focused on exploring Microbiology through a Bachelor of Science. It was only after enrolling in the ominously named ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ topic that Emma changed her trajectory, from Immunology to Environmental Health, and she hasn’t looked back.

“Although it was quite a distance, I loved that there was one huge campus, and in no time, I liked the people here too,” said Emma when explaining why Flinders University was her choice of institution.

“I liked the Advanced Microbiology topic for its autonomy and ability to manage your own samples. But I really loved the Zombie Apocalypse topic, since that was my introduction to Environmental Health and it showed how our findings can have a direct impact on public health.”

The popular topic requires students to imagine Adelaide has been invaded by Zombies, and most of the population is now living in hiding in the buildings at Flinders University. It is their responsibility to provide safe drinking water and safely foraged and preserved food. This allows students to learn techniques on testing, preservation and biological monitoring, which is an introduction to the basics of environmental microbiology and toxicology.

Emma went on to complete her Science degree in 2019, then an Honours, and a Graduate Diploma in Environmental Health Practice, all in consecutive years. This ultimately led to her commencing a PhD, and in 2023 was offered a part-time teaching position as an Associate Lecturer in Environmental Health at Flinders.

“I’d encourage undergraduate students to try as many activities/projects as you can manage – you will soon discover what you like and enjoy,” said Emma.

“If you want to pursue postgraduate study in a lab environment, talk with the students within that lab. A friendly and supportive lab culture is fundamentally important and makes it much easier to ask questions.”

Emma’s groundbreaking PhD research is investigating methamphetamine contamination in residential properties, which can occur through the manufacture or smoking of the drug within a property, hotel or even car. New residents unwittingly move in and then start experiencing adverse health effects associated with Thirdhand Exposure to Methamphetamine (THEM) syndrome.

Emma Kuhn is looking forward to celebrating 30 years of Environmental Health being taught at Flinders University.

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College of Science and Engineering Health Higher Degree Research (PhD)

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