Alchemy - Issue 28 - Page 18

Q&A with Tom Day Tom Day is the faculty’s student recruitment officer. He’s also completing a PhD in medicinal chemistry. And he’s an accomplished music composer and producer. We talk to Tom about how he came to be here, how these sometimes competing interests can complement each other, and where they may one day lead. Cue music… 16 “Music production became my outlet or escape from the research world. Whenever I was out of the lab, I was sitting in my room writing new songs.” What led you to Monash? Tell us about your pathway and research. How and where does music-making fit into all of this? I originally studied medicinal chemistry at La Trobe after not quite making it into Monash. I had too much fun in Year 12! I made the jump to the Monash pharmaceutical science honours program, which paved the way for a PhD. Around the time I was delving into science during high school, I developed an interest in music production. This evolved through my undergraduate years, with several labels expressing interest in my music, including the UK-based Ministry of Sound. So I was gradually exposed to various audiences around the world. Since then, my music has evolved from traditional ‘dance’ music to more ambient and downtempo genres. I also began releasing independently instead of relying on record labels to distribute my music. My research project was under Professor Peter Scammells. I designed small molecule inhibitors for an over-expressed enzyme found in several tumours, including ovarian and endometrial cancers. The enzyme is also implicated in chemotherapy resistance and endometrial disorders such as endometriosis. The compounds I designed were based on the common household anti-inflammatory drug, aspirin. What drew you to this? Why medicinal chemistry? Music production became my outlet or escape from the research world. Whenever I was out of the lab, I was sitting in my room writing new songs. I think the two worlds complemented each other really well – a bad day in the lab resulted in a melancholic, ominous track. Life and physical sciences always sparked my interest. Medicinal chemistry, being the perfect intersection of chemistry and biology, was something I’d wanted to pursue since high school. I loved the idea of being able to create new molecules that can alter the body’s processes and aid in treating disease. In recent years, my music has gained some attention for use in film and advertising. My tracks have been licensed by National Geographic, Holden and Volvo, as well as independent film producers around the globe. I’ve also managed to play a few live shows around town, including last year’s Melbourne Music Week. In terms of the recruitment world, being able to excite and educate students about how they can use their science in future careers is a great reward. It’s a challenge to create content that’s informative as well as entertaining, but when you pull it off and get a positive response from a classroom of students, it’s a huge pat on the back. Tell us about your work as student recruitment officer. Does it help recruiting students when you’re actually a student as well as a recruitment officer? Absolutely! I think the model of student recruitment is starting to shift towards content-based workshops as opposed to course presentations and expos. I still remember when CSIRO came to my school in Year 10 and ran a workshop in my science class. It has a huge effect when someone external comes in and discusses the science behind their field.