Manjekah Dunn – 2014 IBO
Born and raised in Sydney, junior doctor and passionate photographer, Dr Manjekah Dunn, became enamoured by science at a young age through science books.
“In Year 2 I bought this book called ‘Tell Me Why?’, which was filled with scientific explanations for the world around us, and I treated this as the ultimate guide to life and all of the phenomenon around us” she says.
Manjekah attended Baulkham Hills High School and found her love for biological sciences grew more as she was inspired by the works of neurologist Oliver Sacks.
“It was my friend who convinced me to do the qualifying exam – without his encouragement I probably wouldn’t have sat the exam at all” she says.
Despite experiencing a wave of ‘imposter syndrome,’ Manjekah persevered, and after months of hard work, she qualified for the 2014 International Biology Olympiad which was held in Bali, Indonesia. “I still remember receiving the news that I had made it to the camp – I could hardly believe ‘little old me’ would be given such a life-changing experience” she says.
The Olympiad was a challenging academic endeavour that pushed her to her limits, but it also showed her what she could achieve if she put her heart and passion into it. “The Olympiad was the most academically challenging thing I’ve ever done… and it helped me realise that I could achieve more than I believed, if only I gave it a try” she says.
The hands-on experience with science as well as meeting and making strong friendships were her favourite parts of the Olympiad. “Being able to actually witness scientific concepts in front of my eyes, rather than learn about it theoretically in a textbook, was one of the best parts of camp” she says.
“Meeting friends far and wide from across the world and sharing our cultures over eight days in Bali is an irreplaceable experience. We sat the most gruelling exams ever, but I remember the sheer joy and relief of all the students when we finally finished”.
After school, Manjekah started a photography company with friends and studied a Bachelor of Medical Science. She did honours research and completed a Doctor of Medicine at UNSW. During this time, Manjekah was inspired by the Olympiads to start the Australian Physiology Competition, the first national quiz in Australia aimed at challenging university-level students in physiology.
After finishing her degree in 2020, Manjekah started working in her current position as a paediatric physician basic trainee at a children’s hospital in NSW. “A lot of people working in healthcare will say this, but the best part of the job is helping people”, she says. “To make a difference, advocate, and support these families during these moments is an absolute privilege”.
She is completing a research Masters’ part-time and is planning to start her research PhD in 2024. “Seeing fellow students from the Australian summer camp and the international competition go on to complete their own research and PhDs inspired me to follow my own dreams and ambitions and gave me that extra motivation to start my research” she says.
In her spare time, Manjekah loves learning new skills, from figure skating to chess, and even cultivating a shrimp colony fish tank.
Manjekah’s advice for students interested in pursuing a career in STEM is to “give things a go. There is no harm in trying, and you may be surprised at how far you end up going”. To students preparing for the qualifying exams, she says to look at old exam papers and start building up knowledge and skills ahead of time. “An added bonus is if you can find a friend to study with to motivate each other and keep each other on track!”