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Old Flinderian Mia Schaumberg Lectures in Neuroscience and Healthy Brain Ageing

Mia Schaumberg, Flinders Class of 2006

What does life look like for you now?
Overall, life looks pretty good! I am living in a beautiful part of the world, working in my dream job, and I am lucky to be able to see my friends and family all the time. I run most days of the week and do a fair bit of yoga in my spare time. I like to go camping and hiking on the weekends, and travel when I have time off.

I work as a Lecturer in Physiology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, and I run an active research program in exercise for healthy brain ageing. Most of my days are spent reading articles, writing research papers, presenting to lots of different audiences, and running lectures and classes for students studying physiology. Some days I also spend in the lab running experiments, and some days I even get to work in the gym supervising exercise! I love doing something different every day.

What is your favourite Flinders moment?
There were lots of amazing moments, but I think my favourite time was Year 11 camp. As a cohort, we became unified and really excited for the big year to come. It was also a chance for us to really get to know the teachers more (I think that’s when we realised they were human too), we got to know each other more, and talk about lots of ideas that really challenged us to grow and develop as leaders for the school in Grade 12.

Do you have a particular role model or inspirational figure from Flinders or beyond?
I had some pretty amazing teachers in my time at Flinders, but one really had a lasting influence on me. I was lucky enough to have Mr John Andrews for science and then senior biology. Apart from Mr Andrews being a pretty top guy with a great sense of humour, I was always so inspired when he brought his personal experiences (like bringing in the real fossils he had found or talking about breeding Dexter cows on his property and relating this back to genetics) into the classroom! He made science very real and very practical. I aspire to do this now with my physiology and bioscience students at USC, because I remember how much more exciting it made learning for me.

How easy was it to decide what to do in life?
I think the best advice I ever got was to do what you love. Figuring out what to do in life is a bit of a maze, with lots of turns (and even a few dead ends), and it is also ok if we change our minds. If what we love changes that is also ok, as we change throughout our life too!

I loved sport, and science, and how the human body worked, so I decided to study exercise and sports science at UQ, which was the perfect choice for me. I had always planned to do physio or medicine afterwards, but I loved exercise and sport science so much that I decided to do a PhD in exercise physiology. I also had the opportunity to work as a Lecturer at UQ, teaching exercise physiology to students, and I discovered that I also loved to teach. At the end of my degree I did a postdoc (researching on a specific project after doing a doctorate), but I really missed the teaching, so when the opportunity to be a lecturer at USC came up, I jumped at the chance!

Now, I really love learning, figuring out what questions we still need to answer, and helping others to learn and achieve their dreams. My research is making a tangible difference to people’s lives, I get to do things that inspire and challenge me, and every day is different. If you were to tell me 10 years ago, or even five years ago, that this is what I would be doing now, I don’t think I would have believed you!

Did your further study or career go exactly as you had planned?
Absolutely not! My further study and career opportunities have been made up of lots of little decisions, and taking lots of opportunities and chances that have added up over time. I always thought my research would be in high performance sport, but when I got the opportunity to do a postdoc in applied neuroscience and healthy brain ageing, I realised just how much more of a difference I could make to people’s lives, and health, by researching healthy ageing. Dementia is going to be the biggest health challenge of the 21st century, and I hope my research will make a tangible difference to the lives of people affected by the disease.

By strictly following a plan for what we think we want to do, often we put on blinkers, and miss out on many opportunities that can sometimes be career or even life-defining. I think that by keeping an open mind and trying lots of different things, I have had much richer study and career opportunities.

What advice do you have for current students at Flinders?
Don’t worry about what other people are doing, or what others say you should do. It is important to do what you love, what you are passionate about. After school, I think a lot of people feel pressure to study something in particular because they think they should, or they are ‘smart enough’ or ‘their family studied that’. However, I think that study, work and life are much more fulfilling when you do what you love! It is also really important to remember that the only limits are those that you place on yourself.

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of strong connections and relationships with the people around you, whether they are friends, family, sporting teams, working colleagues or advisors. Many opportunities will come to you through your connections, and by being a great person to work with, not necessarily the smartest or the best at what you do. So, my biggest point of advice would be to foster and grow these connections – as you never know where they may lead.

Thank you for sharing, Mia! We are thrilled you have found a career to pursue with such passion and a way to make a positive difference to your community and the world. We look forward to learning more from you and celebrating your research discoveries and success. 

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