Inspiring young people to take up careers in science, technology and medical research.

Group photo including Amy Herlihy and Dr Doug Hilton.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute is committed to investing in the future of medical research; talented young researchers are vital for this development.

Professor Doug Hilton was a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where a program called UROP – undergraduate research opportunity program had been created. “What I saw in Boston was 18-year-olds in their first year of science at MIT coming into the labs and doing their own research projects – not wash glassware, not making solutions, but working with a senior PhD student or postdoctoral scientist on their own research projects,” he says.1

Experiencing real life in a research laboratory

The UROP program allows undergraduate students to work on research projects throughout the year part-time and then full time in the university holidays. Students can be experimental and based in a laboratory, or analytical involving computational work and bioinformatics.

Hilton initiated the program in Australia, launching the program at the institute.

Hilton says: “There’s probably 200 or 300 undergraduates at any one time in the country that are getting a taste of what research is like. For some of those, that will really galvanise them and they’ll say, ‘Research is for me. I want to go ahead and do an Honours degree and a PhD and I want to be a researcher’. But equally, some of them might say, ‘I thought research was for me, but now I’ve had this experience, I realise I’d much prefer to do teaching or work in patent law’. That’s a great outcome as well. What we want to do is allow talented people to make informed decisions.2

The program is administered in Victoria by Biomedical Research Victoria and supported by a number of universities and medical research institutes around Australia.

1 A conversation with Professor Doug Hilton, 2008, NHMRC, Canberra, ACT, viewed 18 June 2014

View related events
Professor Doug Hilton becomes the sixth director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (2009-current).