USP Alumni Network

Name: Lekima Copeland

Country: Fiji

Programme: BSc (2009), MSc (2013)

Why did you choose your field of study?

I like to eat fish Ė Donít study what you canít eat!

Briefly reflect on your student life at USP?
I was a bit naÔve during my early undergrad years. But along the way I started to pick up a lot of positive traits from other students and lecturers. I enjoyed carrying out my fieldwork for my thesis in a remote part of Viti Levu. Even though in the beginning I was a bit nervous, I had wonderful supervisor (Prof. Bill) who told me to keep it simple and he guided me along the way with the help of my other advisors.

Greatest achievement[s] as a student Heaps of memorable achievements.
At 300 level all the students enrolled in MS324 aquaculture course assisted in the hatchery phase of freshwater prawns here at the marine
studies aquaculture lab. We were able to deliver a large commercial batch of post-larvae to the prawn farm in Navua. Carrying out my thesis research in a remote part of Viti Levu (Nakorotubu, Ra province) and completing it was great.

Career Highlights since Graduation
Being involved in several important environmental projects around Fiji and the pacific. The most recent, was the interesting expedition to survey the watersheds in remote Guadalcanal. Experiencing firsthand the wildlife in the interior of Guadalcanal and experiencing their culture was a blessing. One of the many bonuses of our expedition was to fly on a helicopter. Seeing the land from a birds-eye-view was scary but thrilling.

Who/what do you credit your success to?
God and Family What inspires you? Life inspires me, especially the study of fish.

How do you think USP helped you in your career?
I think the diversity of people/culture here has prepared me well for the work Iíve been involved in around Fiji and the pacific. Having USP grandaunts as lecturers during my undergrad years was also helpful and inspiring.  

Describe any challenges you face to reach where you are today and how you overcame those challenges?
Facing challenges is a fact of life. When you are trying to complete your studies at USP, there are a lot of things that are trying to keep you off-track. Failing a challenge whether it is an exam, a mid-semester test, assignment doesnít mean itís the end of the road. I came across this Japanese proverb in my undergrad years ďfall down seven times, get up eightĒ and it has taught me to be resilient or to never give up on your dreams. Have a teachable spirit; learn from your mistakes and move on.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years (career and/or personal goals)?
Hopefully get a doctoral degree in the bag. In the meantime, try and publish (my first paper) some of the grey literature (technical reports) on the freshwater fish work we have done here in Fiji. Just got positive feedback from two reviewers of a paper we submitted. Now itís in the editors hands (final stages - so fingers crossed). Working on a few other papers with colleagues and hopefully in the coming months we have it published. I really want to carry out more scientific studies on the riverine fish here in Fiji and build capacity for other students who are interested in riverine fish ecology.

What advice would you give to current and future students of USP?
Have an open mind and be willing to learn. Nowadays I observe that majority of the students are always on facebook. Trust me; you will learn more if you read your course books and textbooks. Facebook doesnít offer you a degree, itís the books prescribed to you by your lecturers at the beginning of every semester that will help you earn a degree.  Lots of students donít realize the importance of their coursework. Doing the small things well and consistently throughout the semester will help you get a good grade. Your labs, assignments, mid-semester test, lab/tutorial attendance all add up. And if you scored well in all of these, come exam time you wonít be stressed.

Please share top three tips that you think are most important for our current students or recent graduates that will help them when starting out on their career paths.
Build your skill sets when you are at an undergraduate level. Being able to speak loud and clear to an audience is one example. Try and get some work experience during the semester break. I used to volunteer as a hatchery technician rearing small plankton (Rotifers) as first feed for larval (baby) prawns here at Marine Studies Campus. Even though I didnít get paid but the experience helped me later on deciding what I wanted to do for my Masters/career.

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