A thirst for knowledge is paying off for Gunnedah teen Deagan Marchant.
The 16-year-old has just returned from the University of New England (UNE) where he took part in Kruki Indigenous Summer School, which concentrated on the field of medicine.
Deagan was one of 22 students from Years 9-12 from around Australia who were treated as university students for five days to give them an insight into the life of a first-year medical student.
Deagan is in Year 10 at St Mary’s College and was encouraged to go to the summer school by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander focus teacher Samantha Kennedy.
The teenager said the first two days of the program centred around lectures and problem-based learning, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
The students practised first-aid and stitching on a mannequin and were given real-life medical case studies to discuss.
“We watched a simulation where a patient came into the [emergency department] and he was treated,” Deagan said.
“They treated it as if it was real and they asked us questions [like] what's the response we could give in that situation.
“We had to figure out how to respond, the ethics involved, and analyse the stats we were given. We discussed everything in real-time.”
Deagan said he liked being “treated as if we were first-year students”.
“I felt like it was where I was meant to be,” he said.
When Deagan has finished school, he said he would like to pursue neurology or psychiatry.
The 16-year-old said he became interested in medicine when he was about 10 years old and his mum Krystal was “suffering from rather severe allergies” and his dad had a “fracture in his lumbar vertebrate”.
Deagan said he liked to understand how things worked and did a lot of his own research.
“I enjoy knowing the fundamentals,” he said.
“I like science in general, because it gives answers.
“I find it infuriating if you have all the puzzle pieces and put it together and something is missing.”
I think he craves challenges and he likes to understand what’s happening.Krystal Marchant, Deagan's mum
Deagan’s mum Krystal said he had been surprising them with his knowledge from a young age.
“We were lying down one night looking at the stars and I said, ‘Look, Deags, it’s a group of stars’ and he said ‘That’s not a group of stars – that’s a constellation’. He was two or three at the time,” Mrs Marchant said.
Mrs Marchant said Deagan “loved” the summer school and was being “headhunted” by universities.
“He’s always had a fascination with science,” she said.
“I think he craves challenges and he likes to understand what’s happening.”
Deagan’s science teacher Teresa Boyd said he was an “exceptional student” who was “committed to his learning”.
“He consistently extends his learning through extracurricular study in the units of work we are covering in class... [and]engages in class discussions, sometimes even enlightening me on new research and development in current topics,” Ms Boyd said.
The teacher said a highlight of the year was Deagan’s “eagerness” to help his peers to learn.
“He recently planned (with a little help from me) and presented a very interesting lesson to his peers on CRISPR technology during a unit on genetics,” Ms Boyd said.
“This was very well-received and was an excellent opportunity for him to demonstrate the higher order skills of teaching and mentoring others.”
I felt like it was where I was meant to be.Deagan Marchant
Ms Boyd was a key factor in securing work experience for Deagan earlier in the year at the University of Newcastle with one of her previous employers Emeritus Professor Peter Dunkley.
Deagan worked under associate professor Phillip Dickson and said he spent most of his time in a laboratory alongside biophysics and genetics PHD students who were researching Parkinson’s Disease.
The teen did a lot of research before he embarked on the venture and found himself “very over-prepared”.
“Phillip said I know more than some of his second-year biochemistry students,” Deagan said.
Ms Boyd said the work experience stint was a “wonderful opportunity” for Deagan to learn in a medical research laboratory environment and “interact with like-minded people who share his passion for science”.
“He has kept in contact with this group of researchers and they are proving to be wonderful mentors for him ,” Ms Boyd said.
“It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to be his science teacher and I look forward to watching his progress through his senior years at school and his future career in medicine or science.”
Deagan will return to the university in December for another period of work experience, and again in January for the Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science.
He is also among six finalists vying for CSIRO’s Indigenous STEM Awards.