Alumni Stories

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ALUMNI STORIES


Since 2005 Perth Modern School has been a fully selective academic school and has produced some of the best and brightest students in WA, many of whom have continued on to outstanding success in their tertiary studies and careers.

See below for inspiring stories on some of our graduates.

Dr Don Tishan
2008-2012


What is most memorable about your time at Perth Mod?
Breaking my leg while trying to steal a base on the old Oval has to be up there with one of my more memorable moments! Limb fractures aside, I look back on my time at Mod with fondness for a number of reasons. The friendships were a huge part of what made it such an enjoyable five years, in what is a predictably chaotic time in one’s life, I could always rely on my friends for support and to give me that extra push.

A lot of my favourite memories were sporting related. Whether it was making deep runs into netball tournaments as a team or playing pink ball cricket for Mr Sondo’s XI, there was always plenty of sport going around to balance out the daily academic rigours.

What did you study at university?
Following my high school graduation, I studied undergraduate medicine at Monash University. During this time, I was lucky enough to travel to the UK and Asia for clinical attachments/electives and learn from healthcare systems outside of Australia.

In my latter years of medical school, I began to develop a passion for intensive care and anaesthesia which led me to pursuing a masters in critical care medicine at the University of Sydney. I completed this over three years while working as a junior doctor.

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What did you do beyond university?
As a first year doctor (intern), I had a strong desire to escape city life momentarily and experience what rural Australia had to offer. As a result, I moved to the border city of Albury where I completed my internship. It was an absolute pleasure to work in Albury-Wodonga as I was exposed to a diverse case mix of patients and also made lifelong friends here.

Since my rural adventure, I have worked at some of the larger hospitals in Sydney. My most memorable experiences include being a part of the heart transplant team at St Vincent’s and working in Westmead’s intensive care unit during the (hopefully) worst of COVID-19.

What led you to choose your current career path/area of study?
To be candid, I was not completely sure about my decision to study medicine when I first received my offer after high school. Of course, there were things that appealed to me such as the fact that helping people is inextricably linked to the job and that there is such a diversity in potential career paths. However, it is such a big commitment and given that I was from a completely non-medical family, it was difficult to have a completely informed idea of what lay ahead. I’m very fortunate that I ended up absolutely loving medicine and have no regrets whatsoever, but I’d encourage any prospective medical students to aim to get a good idea of what life as a doctor is really like. Saying this, I’m more than happy to chat with anyone who finds themselves in this situation.

Describe a typical day where you work?
I work as a critical care doctor meaning that I split my time between intensive care medicine and anaesthetics. In the intensive care unit, I’m one part of a multidisciplinary team caring for the hospital’s sickest patients. On a day to day basis this might involve cardiac arrests and performing invasive procedures such as accessing major blood vessels or putting a patient on a ventilator for ongoing respiratory support.

During my anaesthesia shifts, as you might guess, my main responsibility is to see patients safely through surgeries using a combination of anaesthetic, pain and cardiac medication. Aside from that, I may also be required to see patients in preadmission clinic to optimise everything for the day of surgery and also to see them after surgery as part of the acute pain service.

How did Mod help you grow as an individual and a scholar?
When I arrived at Perth Modern, the culture of excellence was palpable. In my opinion this was fostered by both the academic staff who were always willing to go the extra mile to help out in anyway possible and my peers who had such incredible goals and demonstrated unyielding work ethic that it motivated me to always strive for more.

I can safely say that I am where I am with my professional and academic career because of the values instilled in me at Mod.

What are your future plans?/ What are your future academic/career goals?
Next January I will be commencing my PhD in the UK at Oxford University. This’ll be based in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital and will be looking at a new way of monitoring oxygen consumption in critically ill patients. Spending a few years in the UK has been a big bucket list item for me, so needless to say I’m very excited!

Once I’ve completed the PhD, I’ll return to Australia to start the formal training process to become a specialist anaesthetist. It all sounds like a lot of training (and it is!) but as I’ve found, the journey itself is an immensely enjoyable and satisfying one.

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Mark Chia
2008-2010


What is most memorable about your time at Perth Mod?
Being a student at Perth Mod gave me lots of special opportunities – some of the most memorable ones were attending the International Mathematics Competition in Thailand and the National Youth Science Forum in Canberra.

I was also very lucky to have a close group of friends at Perth Mod who continue to be a source of support and inspiration. Maintaining friendships can be tricky after high school, but I’m very grateful to still have these people in my life!

What did you study at university?
After leaving Perth Mod I studied undergraduate medicine at UWA. During med school I was involved with a youth health education program call Dr YES (Youth Education Sessions), one of the most rewarding aspects of my time at uni. This program trains medical student volunteers to deliver health sessions for high-school students. Through Dr YES I met some of my closest mentors and had the opportunity to travel all over WA.

In my fifth year of medical school, I studied in Carnarvon (nine hours north of Perth) as part of UWA’s Rural Clinical School. This was the first time I was exposed to the challenges of rural medicine.

I’ve since also completed a part-time Master of Medicine (Clinical Epidemiology) through the University of Sydney.

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What did you do beyond university?
After med school I worked for two years as a junior doctor based at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. During this time, I was seconded to hospitals around WA, including rotations in Geraldton and Karratha. I was then very fortunate to be offered my dream-job – travelling rural WA delivering outreach eye care on the Lions Outback Vision Van.

I’ve since returned to Perth as an ophthalmology (eye) registrar. My job is to help deliver eye care as part of a multi-disciplinary team of nurses, optometrists, and eye doctors. My workday involves injecting eyeballs, playing with lasers, and looking at lots of pretty eyes!

What advice would you give to your high school self?
One of the biggest things which has changed about my attitude since high-school is not feeling the need to rush towards a particular goal – whether it be finishing medical school or completing a speciality training program. Many of the amazing opportunities I’ve had so far have come up through the course of taking the road less travelled. The journey of medical training can be a long slog, especially if you view the end of your training as the only endpoint. I’ve learned to find more satisfaction in my work by taking a step-back, pursuing diverse and interesting opportunities (including non-medical ones), and enjoying the journey.

What are your future plans?
This year I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be awarded a 2021 General Sir John Monash Scholarship. With the support of this generous scholarship, I’ll be heading to London to start a PhD in Ophthalmology at University College London, working in collaboration with Moorfields Eye Hospital and the Lions Eye Institute. My project aims to apply artificial intelligence to advanced eye scans to improve eye care for rural and Indigenous communities.

The General Sir John Monash Foundation runs a wonderful scholarship program which supports students to pursue overseas postgraduate study at any university in the world. I’d highly recommend learning more about the scholarship and to consider applying in the future – I’d be happy to help in any way I can!

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Amy Fortnum
2007-2011


What profession/area of work/study are you currently pursuing and what does it involve?
First and foremost, I’m an actress, musical theatre artist and writer. However, as the pandemic has hit the industry pretty hard, I’m keeping myself busy completing my Master of Teaching (Primary) online - and I’m loving it.

What did you study after leaving Perth Mod?
I went straight to the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) to study classical voice. The course taught me a lot about classical music, vocal technique and music theory, but it wasn’t inspiring me creatively. I was then lucky enough to be accepted into the Music Theatre bachelor degree, and tallied up seven years of intense performance training at WAAPA. It was there that also I found my love for writing and put my first original work on the stage, Golden Age Girls, which went on to win the 2018 WA Fringe World Cabaret Award. Come along for a laugh at the 2021 Perth Fringe Festival!

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What led you to choose your current career path/area of study?
Ever since I gate crashed my sister’s toddler dance lessons, I knew I had to perform. There’s something about standing in the spotlight, becoming someone else, understanding different perspectives and telling important stories. It’s the study of humans and what makes us individual that gets me addicted to every character I take on. Through theatre, you can also confront an audience with important messages, challenge their thinking and provide a platform to start the difficult conversations that often avoided. Alternatively, there’s nothing like making a whole room of people laugh through escapism, especially in a time the world is confronted by some pretty overwhelming issues that can often consume our thoughts.

What are your future academic/career goals?
I’m currently completing my Master of Teaching, so the first step is to graduate in 2021. Alongside relief teaching to support my acting career, I would love to continue to combine both of my passions - education and performance - to continue to expand my own business, interACT Education. InterACT is an online teaching resource for educators to use in the classroom, which employs professional actors in an interactive video format to teach children to express themselves and study the human mind through drama. It’s currently being used in schools around Australia and the United States, but there’s always room to grow! Teaching young people self-expression and empathy through a drama education helps to develop understanding, analytical and accepting young minds. It can also contribute to a meaningful literary education, enhancing communication skills, perspective taking and multimodal textual analysis, which is crucial in the online social environment.

Describe a typical day where you currently work/study.
The joy of the theatre industry is that there is no such thing as a typical day! I’m currently being commissioned to write an educational children’s musical, so the research and writing often takes up my mornings. When I’m in a contracted performance, six days a week are taken up by rehearsals, learning scripts and tracks. During performance weeks I have time to write/film interACT material, write my own cabaret work, catch up with my studies, and work on my craft, before a show in the evening! The theatrical life is full of different, exciting, creative opportunities, it’s up to the artist to find them.

What are your favourite memories of your time at Mod?
I have so many, but I absolutely loved the music program at Mod. The respect that everyone had for the music itself and the pure joy that it brought us all to create collaboratively is something that is rare to find. Missc was one of my biggest inspirations and having her lead our choral performances on music tour, alongside such brilliant young musicians has to be the highlight of my high school years.

How did Mod help you grow as an individual and as a scholar?
I don’t think I’ve found anyone from another school who enjoyed their education as much as a Perth Mod graduate. I was in the first year of the gifted and talented program, and although the challenge was a shock from my regular primary school, it changed me like no other school could. The genuine celebration of academic success and the acceptance of different types of intelligence is something that I am truly grateful for. Additionally, the respect from the teachers and their desire to get the best out of their students has inspired me to become one of those educators for the next generation.

What are you most looking forward to in the future?
As the theatre industry is rebuilding itself, there is a strong push to include more diverse perspectives and normalise inclusivity to eliminate discrimination. I’m proud to be a part of such an important movement, and I can’t wait to see how it changes the world, little by little. When I’m offstage, I’m incredibly excited to become an inspirational educator for the next generation.

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Ee-Faye Chong
2008-2013


What profession are you currently working in and what does it involve?
I’m a geospatial data analyst at Geoscience Australia, a government agency based in Canberra. My job involves manipulating and visualising open-source satellite data. For example, we produce tools that help identify crops, map deforestation and track illegal mining.

My current project is called Digital Earth Africa and is dedicated to products for the African continent. The aim is to create a self-sustaining data analysis platform that will be managed and used by people in Africa.

Describe a typical day where you currently work.
Pack lunch and snacks. Cycle to work. Quick check-in with all team members on what everyone is focusing on today. Work with my colleagues on collecting data for verifying and improving our analysis algorithms. Drink water. Spend some time focusing on my own area of analysis – at the moment I am documenting multidimensional statistical values but was previously looking at data quality. Ask people to explain things to me. Eat my snacks.

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What did you study after leaving Mod and what are your current career/academic goals?
I did a Bachelor of Philosophy (Science) at the Australian National University, with honours in plasma physics. In WA you might be more familiar with the similar BPhil program. For someone who didn’t know what they wanted to do, the best part was the flexibility. I got to try lots of research projects as an undergrad, including computational chemistry and mechanical biology. It led me to geodesy, which was my first introduction to satellite data.

I also did a diploma of languages in Japanese, which was good fun and gave me a chance to learn about linguistic and cultural dialogues. Science can get a bit esoteric.

My current goal is to raise awareness of water management in the Murray-Darling Basin and advocate for an aggressive transition to renewable energy.

How did Perth Modern help you grow as an individual and a scholar?
I was lucky to have a bunch of inspiring and memorable teachers who always encouraged me to prioritise challenges over the fear of failure. Confidence that you’ll make it through is better than confidence that you’re right.

What are your favourite memories of your time at Mod?
Many things, but I am forever grateful for the Music program.

If you could relive high school all over again, what would you do differently?
Normalise seeing counsellors or psychiatrists the way people see GPs to get check-ups.

What led to your current career path?
When I realised I’d accidentally become a physics major I got spooked and ran away next door to the department of Earth sciences. They use physics to do things with real-life applications – I was sold. The official term is ‘physics refugee’. I ended up going back to physics, but physics and physics-adjacent applications outside academia continued to interest me.

What else have you achieved/been involved in since your time at Mod?
In no particular order: started kitchen scrap composting, going to parkrun, and volunteering with the meriSTEM program, which creates free high-quality high school STEM subject material for teachers and students. I also make a mean carrot cake now.

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Kartikeya Bisht - Head Boy
2014-2018


What did you study after leaving Mod?
I am studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences, majoring in Medical Sciences and Computer Science to pursue the direct pathway to Doctor of Medicine at the University of Western Australia.

What profession/business are you currently working in and what does it involve? What else have you achieved/been involved in since your time at Mod?
I am working as an Equity Analyst at UWA SMIF (Student Managed Investment Fund) where my role involves constructing Stock pitches and presenting them to the Viburnum Fund as well as actively managing a portfolio.
I have also been running my own business, SAI Academy (ABN: 74696142308) with the help of my twin brother Revant. At SAI Academy I offer tutoring in Mathematics (Methods and Specialist), Chemistry, Physics and Economics to Years 11 and Year 12 Students. The tutoring is aimed to improve the academic performance of Year 11 and 12 students, catering specifically to Mod students. The tutoring sessions run every day from 3.30pm – 7.00pm at Perth Modern School. I also offer free tutoring to some students who are from a financially disadvantaged background.
I am a UWA student pursuing medical science and computer science. I complete the bulk of my work for these courses during off times when I am not working for SAI Academy or UWA SMIF.
In addition, I am working on a Deep Reinforcement Learning program that utilises a ‘reversion to mean’ strategy to be able to trade the US:EURO forex market. I have certainly kept very busy since gradation!

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Describe a typical day where you currently work.
UWA SMIF The UWA SMIF carries out meetings once every week where we discuss market conditions, review our current equity portfolio and carry out due diligence into prospective future investments.
SAI Academy
I am involved at SAI Academy throughout the week (Monday – Friday), teaching Year 12 students Monday to Wednesday and Year 11 students Thursday and Friday. On a daily basis I work to develop new resources, update previous resources, complete pending solution and deliver classes to Year 11 and Year 12 students. I also support my Years 11 and 12 students throughout the day via Instagram and messenger.

What are your favourite memories of your time at Mod?
I enjoyed my time at Mod immensely and some of my favourite memories would include the lunch times I spent with my friends – in our group more than 40 boys would play soccer on the oval or hang out in the refectory. I also fondly remember my time with the other student councillors during council camp, Mufti day etc as well as my duties as head boy.

How did Perth Modern help you grow as an individual and a scholar?
It helped me develop a “growth mindset” – studying with other like-minded peers who excelled at academics motivated me to also try my best at each and every subject and to develop a good work ethic. My love for the sciences and mathematics was also instilled at Mod.
Mod offered me a plethora of opportunities that helped broaden my perspective as an individual and a scholar. This includes the opportunity to serve as the Head Boy, a member of the Student Council, the Music program as well as the opportunity to take part in various competitions from ICAS to the AMO.

If you could relive high school all over again, what would you do differently?
I would not change much in my high school experience, however if I were to relive high school all over again, I would study computer science and continue with music ensembles till the end of Year 12.

What led you to choose your current career path/area of study?
Medicine: I wanted to study medicine and graduate as a doctor because in my opinion it is the best and highest pursuit of a life’s work for someone who loves solving problems and wants to make a positive impact in the lives of other people. Medicine has always involved extremely complex processes with dozens of outcomes, scores of factors and uncertainty about every element. Therefore, as someone who loves problem solving, I was naturally inclined towards medicine as my area of study.
Computer Science: I had always wanted to pursue a second major and was inspired to study mathematics and computer science after watching AlphaGo – an AI program produced by Google’s Deep Mind that defeated the world’s best player at the incredibly complex game of Go. I was especially fascinated by Deep Reinforcement Learning – where intelligent machines can learn from their actions, similar to the way’s humans learn from experience. I believe there are endless applications for Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence. One example is using AI to measure blood flow and predict cardiovascular risk.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
In the little spare time I have, I love reading articles and watching videos about new frontiers in technology as well as keeping up with current affairs. I also enjoy hanging out with my friends at university whenever I have the chance. On weekends I really enjoy cycling with my father.

What are your current career/study goals?
My current study goals are to complete my double major with high grades and I aim to apply what I am learning through the computer science major in the field of medicine. I also aim to maintain the quality of my tutoring service whilst managing other social and academic commitments.

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Anish Badgeri - Head Boy
2008-2012


What programs at Perth Mod were you involved in?
I started in 2008 and graduated in 2012. Over the years I was actively involved in programs such as debating, music, and Student Council. In Year 12 I was elected Head Boy and enjoyed being a part of ensembles such as Phoenix and Schola Cantori.

What did you study after leaving Mod?
I chose to study a Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) degree at UWA with majors in Economics and Political Science & International Relations. I also studied a concurrent Diploma of Modern Languages in French. The aim was to then pursue a postgraduate degree in Law.

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Did you receive a scholarship to University? If yes what was it and how did it help you academically?
I was offered a Fogarty Scholarship at UWA which exposed me to a fantastic network of motivated and high achieving young people. The Fogarty Program also includes a number of leadership workshops and speaker panels on a diversity of career fields. The scholarship included financial support for course fees and overseas study, and I had the opportunity to learn Mandarin in China and Taiwan.

What did you do beyond University after Mod?
Perth Modern school instilled a strong sense of community and the desire to ‘give back’ and I embodied this in my University years. I continued my passion for debating by coaching teams at Mod as well by serving as President of the WA Debating League in 2017. I was also heavily involved with UN Youth Australia including Convening the UN Youth National Conference in 2017 and being on the National Board of Directors in 2018. Both of these experiences allowed me to travel around Australia to judge events such as the National Debating Championships and National Voice Finals, in addition to running workshops in Alice Springs and Christmas Island.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in education and why did you want to teach at Mod?
The culture of achievement at Mod made me think that my only future options were to study Law, Medicine, or Engineering. My lack of interest in Maths and Science (sorry Mr Staffe and Mr Meczes!) meant that I only considered Law as a viable option.
However, being involved with WADL and UN Youth made me realise that my true passion was for education - especially in terms of providing unique educational opportunities for young people. I started my teaching journey with Teach For Australia and worked at Butler College for two years. It was a highly rewarding experience, particularly in terms of facilitating extracurricular programs such as debating.
This was a big motivating factor in my decision to teach at Mod - the ability to provide very enriching and challenging opportunities for students beyond the classroom to learn about the world around them. I’ve really enjoyed leveraging my debating and UN Youth experience to help students develop critical lifelong skills such as teamwork, public speaking, and critical thinking.

If you could relive high school all over again, what would you do differently?
The biggest thing I would change about my time at Mod is my attitude towards the ATAR and how much emphasis I placed on it. I was a much happier person when I adjusted these expectations for myself and focused more on the experience of learning rather than the results attached to it. This is a value that I actively try to embed and teach in my classroom today!

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John Nicholls
1972-1976


Meet the man with the reliable voice from the 6PR news’ desk
In the media world, with its smattering of healthy egos, you will never hear John Nicholls blow his own trumpet.
In his nearly three decades presenting 6PR news, John has been the steady, reliable hand flying high but always under the gossip radar.
As an accomplished musician, John does blow a mean trombone and the Perth Modern music scholarship graduate has become handy on the drums. But all away from the spotlight.

John, 60, explains his fateful and fortunate decision to opt for journalism over his course of physics, chemistry and high maths at UWA.
John switched from UWA to WA Institute of Technology, now Curtin University, because only they offered a Bachelor of Arts, English degree with a major in journalism. Having cruised through Gosnells Primary School, Perth Modern, UWA and WAIT and armed with his degree, John followed media tradition to get started in the media world and headed into the country for a job.

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He signed-on as a radio announcer in Narrogin, then was promoted to Bunbury in the early eighties before a fateful day when he saw a piece of paper on the radio station’s photocopier.
“I don’t know whether someone had left it there deliberately for me to find but it was an advertisement for an ABC announcer. That was a cream job and I applied,” said John from his northern suburbs home.
“In those days you had to have a degree to get into the ABC so I’m glad I had done that.”
For three years until 1986, John worked happily as ABC Perth general announcer. Wooed to 6PM, he became a familiar news voice from 1986 to 1992 before being offered his role at 6PR 27 years ago.
Along the way John married Steph, a teacher, and they have two musically-gifted daughters, Julia, 24, and Lucinda, 21. Roll out the family band?
Yes, the family grouped as a band but only for the neighbours on a Sunday afternoon, the Nicholls quartet playing on their front lawn – with neighbours keeping their social distance, of course.
To back their daughters, Steph, with experience as school musical director, played keyboard with John on drums. Julia, is a violinist (studying musicology) and Lucinda, who plays various instruments, is focussing on singing. They performed well-known favourites to rounds of applause along the street.
Life was sweet for Perth-born John, until he received a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
“It was a worrying for a day or two but then I thought that since they got it early and if they take the prostate and the cancer out, it would be alright,” he said.
After a month off work, John bounced back. Steph planned a celebration, booking an overseas jaunt, to London and Liverpool where John, a long-time Beatles fan, revelled in their guided tour of Beatles’ home territory.
“In England they never knock anything down and we were able to see the places and the plaques commemorating The Beatles. I looked up at the building where The Beatles performed Let it Be.
And in England, we also saw snow for the first time,” he said.
John says they like getaways to the south west and lately to Binningup but haven’t been big travellers.
John follows the world’s news closely “to understand what the story is and to pick-up names and pronunciations.”
He has never wavered from his lifelong radio interest.
“I love radio. I love the talk on radio and getting a story across,” the veteran said.
John paces his life, including his regular running a few times a week.
“I did a marathon two years ago but that’ll probably be my last,” he says.
But he’s continuing his marathon stint at the microphone, reassuringly breaking the news in his regular noon to 6pm slot.
Getting set for work, John pulls up his Beatles-logo socks and reveals that another endurance task is under way – reading the hefty, three-volume biography of The Beatles.

Story courtesy Lee Tate, Have a Go News

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