With a little help from her friends: Biomed student finds her “niche” in the law

Second-year Melbourne JD student Mona Zhang says support from her peers has helped her transition from the Bachelor of Biomedicine to postgraduate study in law.

Melbourne JD student Mona Zhang admits the shift from biomedicine to the JD has been challenging, but says support from her peers has helped her adjust.

"I've met some fantastic people who I know I will be friends with for life,” says Mona.

“I think, especially as a science student, it's a very different style of learning. In science, there's practical application of skills and a lot of memorisation, whereas in law you learn the principles and then you have to apply them to a new situation.

“But it doesn't matter what study background you have because we all go through the same thing. I've adapted to it now.”

Mona has interned for the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer – part of the Victorian Cancer Council – in her Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) subject. PILI subjects pair students with community law partners – real clients – to solve legal problems collaboratively. As the McCabe Centre internship combines Mona’s interests in science and law, she says it was a perfect match.

“That’s exactly what I was looking for,” she says.

“It’s been useful, particularly in terms of research skills. I feel if I had a research essay for uni now, I’d be much more confident in it.”

Mona says extracurricular activities have also been rewarding.

“I never thought I would do mooting,” she says.

“I do not like public speaking. But some of my friends from class were looking for a third member and asked if I wanted to try it.

“I was sure we’d get knocked out early on, but we actually made it to the quarter finals. So we were thrilled with that result.

“Mooting gives you so much more confidence. If you can stand up and respond to a judge who is attacking your arguments, you can do anything.”

While her biomedical background initially tested her in her JD studies, Mona says students with diverse study backgrounds should not be deterred. There is no presumed legal knowledge when you come to the JD – it’s all a matter of practice.

“Coming from something that's so different to law – when many students have done arts, international relations or criminology – I was able to adapt pretty quickly,’ she says.

“The law is so universal and so useful to every single sector that it doesn't matter what your interests are or background is, you can find a place. It’s all about finding your ‘niche.’”

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