Cynthia Lam

I made my first science presentation at the Awards, and while nerve-wracking, that experience taught me so much about presenting and pitching my work to others, which makes up a significant part of what I am doing in my career right now.

Passion for science, social change, human rights and global health motivate 2013 finalist Cynthia Lam. Not only is she studying Medicine in Hong Kong, Cynthia is also busy working for an innovative social start-up she co-founded called ‘Pay it Forward’; running advocacy campaigns and capacity building sessions for peers; singing and playing the piano; and writing a blog about productivity at work and university and how she explores opportunities. 

I’d say perseverance is the most significant quality I developed from conducting research. You are meant to fail multiple times in research, and you learn from your mistakes. I was never a patient person, but research taught me to be resilient, and this I am still benefiting from years after.

Cynthia’s journey began with her investigative science project exploring a method utilising titania photocatalysis in the removal of organic waste in water and the generation of hydrogen gas. Her project was born through discussions with a friend, who was equally interested in science. Titania photocatalysis stood out and without overthinking, Cynthia dove into researching the topic and developing her project. Her advice to other aspiring students, who want to do a project but are daunted by the myriad of topics to explore, is “Don’t overthink! If you don’t have a specific area of interest (I used to fear that question), that’s okay – starting with something new is always better than not starting at all.”

As a finalist in 2013, Cynthia credits her experiences at the Awards camp with motivating her to pursue her passion for science and innovations. This saw her take inspiration from her project and create a practical application – H2prO – an eco-friendly alternative for providing people in underdeveloped countries clean water and electricity. This invention utilises titanium photocatalysis to purify wastewater and produce hydrogen, to be captured and used for sustainable electricity generation.  Cynthia represented Australia with this invention at the Google Science Fair in 2014, one of 5 global finalists in the 17-18 age group. For any students inspired to follow in her footsteps, Cynthia’s advice is to:

Be bold, but don’t be over-ambitious. It is vital to have a specific, well-designed question in mind before conducting any research and be driven by the passion to answer it. Stay focused and don’t fear failures – remember they are part of the process!

Of course behind many of our talented Alumni are the remarkable teachers who foster curiosity, spark creativity and flame a love for science - teachers that recognise the importance for students to do open-inquiry projects, provide encouragement, support and access to resources, and give generously of their time.  For Cynthia, this was her biology teacher at Balwyn High School:

Dr Stent was one of the kindest and most helpful teachers I have ever had the privilege to be taught by. I was the one who would not stop asking her questions and she was never annoyed. My most memorable moment was when she put up a little presentation with paper props she made herself to teach us about immunology – that was the best!

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