Support to strive for excellence: Sara’s Medical Science experience

A desire to improve healthcare and alleviate suffering led Sara Ataie Ashtiani to pursue a Bachelor in Medical Science at Flinders University. What she found was not only fulfillment in exploring her chosen field, but an environment where she could grow both professionally and personally.

Supported from the start

Sara found the collaborative culture of striving for excellence at Flinders uplifting.

As a first-year student settling into her new environment at university, Sara benefitted from the College of Medicine and Public Health’s mentoring program. When the COVID lockdown disrupted her study plans (a mere two weeks into her degree) she was relieved to find comfort and support by talking with her mentor.

This initial positive experience led her to later seek mentorship from Professor Briony Forbes and the members of the Forbes laboratory, who ‘continue to inspire and motivate’ her to improve both professionally and personally.

“…having someone I could seek professional guidance from gave me the confidence I needed to apply myself fully and seek out new opportunities such as facilitating, placements, demonstrating, and volunteering, which helped me get the most out of the degree!”

This well-rounded approach of prioritising simultaneous academic achievements and personal development made for a ‘wonderful’ experience at Flinders.

Laboratory learning and practical placements

As part of the Bachelor of Medical Science course, students learn key elements of work practice necessary to develop successful careers through participation in project-based laboratory work.

Sara gained valuable hands-on experience during her third semester and six-week summer placement. She particularly enjoyed this opportunity to observe and learn from different research associates and their individual techniques for maximising reliability.

“It has been enlightening for me to understand how [they] perfected their techniques over years of experience. I have enjoyed applying these techniques to my project as well as developing my own style of conducting myself in the lab.”


“I was able to gain first-hand experiences in state-of-the-art research facilities.

The most enjoyable part of my degree was undoubtedly the hands-on experiences I gained during my placements.”


In addition to her technical skills, the combination of theoretical studies, practicals, and real-world experience during her program allowed her to develop many important and transferrable soft skills.

“Getting hands-on experience and exploring different pathways is an excellent way to learn.

I was able to develop an array of transferrable skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and networking which have undoubtedly helped my professional development, and are applicable to virtually all careers.”

Prioritising professional and personal development

Throughout her degree, Sara found the ‘unique culture of striving for excellence through collaboration’ at Flinders uplifting.

“Every academic I interacted with genuinely wanted the best for me, looked for my strengths, and presented opportunities to me accordingly – this helped me grow and develop a lot throughout my degree.”

Sara appreciated the personalised approach the teaching staff took when delivering their content in a flexible and interactive way.

“I felt so well supported by my peers and the academics – there is an amazing culture of genuine encouragement and ensuring each student reaches for their personal best.”

Sara (left) accepts the ‘Bachelor of Medical Science Prize for Research Excellence’ from Associate Professor Voula Gaganis at the 2022 College of Medicine and Public Health Student Award celebration.

Sara’s future at Flinders

Continuing her academic and professional journey at Flinders, Sara enjoys the ‘incredible views and scenery’ at the Bedford Park campus while working part-time as a Medical Biochemistry and Cell Biology Research Associate in the Proteins in Metabolism and Cancer Laboratory.

As for her future study plans, she is excited to take the next step in her career by enrolling in a Doctor of Medicine.

Sara pictured with her colleagues (L-R) Andrew Blyth, Madeleine Fitzgerald, and Bridie Armour.

“I honestly could not imagine a better educational experience than the one I was lucky enough to have at Flinders! I hope to apply my experiences to help bridge the gap between medical research and clinical care as a physician-scientist.”

Consider a health career and make a real-world impact on future medicine. Explore a Medical Science degree at Flinders University.

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