Heidi's Master of Science Communication experience

Publication date
Monday, 20 Nov 2023
Heidi Parkes

Why did you choose ANU?

I chose ANU because the Master of Science Communication degree was recommended by a colleague of mine who was employed as a science communicator with a government organisation. I was working as an agriculture information extension officer at the time and wanted to improve my ability to communicate complex topics with farmers and other industry stakeholders.   

What I like most about my student experience so far is the challenging and engaging course material. The lecturers, assignments and research project have really challenged my views on science and communication, forcing me to think in different ways and from a range of perspectives.

What type of work do you do?

I work as a scientist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. I’m based in Rural Queensland and work with horticultural industries to improve sustainability through better pest management systems and agricultural technologies.   

My Master of Science Communication has helped me develop my skills and confidence in working with farmers and other industry people. I feel like I have improved my communication skills and my capacity to develop and deliver research and extension projects with good outcomes for industry and regional communities. 

How did you balance work with study?

There are no easy answers to this one, balancing work and study is an ongoing challenge. I completed my master’s degree one course at a time while working full-time and raising children. I was realistic about the time I could dedicate to study and so never tried to do more than one course in any single semester. I also stuck to two courses per year, so I had a decent break over the summer and mid-year. I tried to give myself the time and space to immerse myself in my study. As a result, it took me longer to finish the degree than I had initially expected, but I got so much more value out of it that way.      

When COVID hit, my workload escalated sharply when I moved into a public information role at work to support the government’s COVID response. Whilst tackling this new role along with the added responsibility for homeschooling three boys, I came close to withdrawing from my study. The support from my lecturer and the university at the time was amazing and I managed to stick it out.

What were some highlights of your degree?

I had the privilege of participating in a pilot mentor program for my master’s research course. Working with a mentor was a valuable opportunity to build relationships and networks within ANU, learn about different perspectives in social research, test ideas, and talk through problems. The mentor program was thought-provoking, inspiring and surprisingly fun—a really enjoyable way to learn and grow as a social researcher.

I did not expect to learn so much about social research methodologies, particularly qualitative analysis. I commenced my masters because I wanted to improve my communication skills, but I have finished with skills in social research data collection and analysis, and now have the confidence to apply these methods in my current work. I also see these skills as a real asset in exploring future career opportunities.  

Any advice for someone considering studying a Master of Science Communication?

Look at the courses on offer and meet with the academic coordinators to find out more about the course materials, assignments and expectations. Ask lots of questions and be sure to embark on the degree that excites and energises you.

Find a suitable mentor to help build your networks, open your mind to new possibilities and support you through your studies.   

Use all the resources you have on hand (such as social and professional networks, and Google) to find people who are working in jobs or industries you’re interested in, and then connect with them. Ask them about their work, how they got there and what opportunities they can recommend. Most people love to talk about what they do and are happy to help nurture the next generation. The more people you talk to, the more opportunities you open up.      

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Science communication
Degree program

The Master of Science Communication combines theoretical and practical aspects of science communication, including courses on science in the media, science communication on the web, science and public policy, and cross-cultural science communication.

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