Celebrating Alumni – Pia Varsamis

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Pia Varsamis graduated from Oakleigh Grammar in 2011, and is now undertaking her biggest educational feat yet, embarking on her PhD! Pia was gracious enough to take time away from her study to answer a few of our questions, those of which are featured in the interview below:

Can you tell us a little bit about you, your PHD and studies thus far?

My name is Pia Varsamis, and I am an alumni of Oakleigh Grammar, having graduated in 2011. I am currently at the end of completing my PhD in the Metabolic & Vascular Physiology Laboratory, at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. Having completed an Undergraduate Sports Science Degree, and further completing my Honours Degree, this enabled me to decide research was the path for me to follow.

Studying a BExSSc, was this something you were always interested in from a young age, and what made you want to pursue this career path?

Health, diet and physical activity are definitely three of my major interests. When I finished my Year 12 studies I think I can speak on behalf of a lot of students, and say I had no idea what sort of career I wanted. However, pin pointing these three things that I’m passionate about made my decision a lot easier. After all, it’s something you have to love, to be able to work day in and day out. Overall, we live in a society where unhealthy lifestyle factors (i.e. poor diet, lack of exercise, sedentary behaviour) encourage lifestyle induced diseases such as premature cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Exploring solutions to combat these types of diseases- whether it being through physical activity interventions, modification to diet or changes in lifestyle, I feel as though something greater needs to be achieved.

You have so many achievements under your belt from Scholarships at Monash University to Baker Institute Travel Awards. Is that level of success something that came naturally over the years or was it a lot of hard work, or a mix of those two factors?

A lot of hard work, perseverance, determination and drive. It’s definitely a combination of a lot of factors.

Following on from that, where do you find your motivation, and was there ever times where you felt disheartened or felt like you could have given up, but didn’t?

I’m lucky to have the never-ending love and support from both my parents, two sisters and grandparents.

How would you describe your time at Oakleigh Grammar? Did the School teach you any lessons that you carried into tertiary study and your career?

Oakleigh Grammar provided me with many great memories throughout my 13 years of schooling. From the first day of prep with Ms Papadatos (February 1999) until the last day of Year 12 (November 2011), Oakleigh Grammar was my second home. In saying this, my fondest memory was being college captain. I had the pleasure of representing the college at various functions such as Greek Independence Day (25th March) and His Grace Bishop Iakovos of Militoupolis Ordination (2011) in Sydney. Oakleigh Grammar gave me the opportunity to gain the core fundamental principles I needed to go and study at university. It is important to me to give back to a school that gave me as much as a student.

What would be the best piece of advice you would offer someone who is in Secondary School?

Find something that’s enjoyable. Something that would allow you to wake up every morning with excitement and willingness to go and do it. Love what you do and you will do it no matter what. Push yourself towards your boundaries and never give up.

Where do you see yourself and your career heading in the next 5-10 years?

I’ll have to wait and see, it’s such a big and open ended question. I feel as though a PhD will give me many opportunities, however as to which way I want to head ‘career wise’, I will need to wait and see.

Finally, for someone as high achieving as yourself, what do you do to create balance in your life? What do you like to do to unwind?

Go out with friends and family, bake, read and take every opportunity to go away on holidays (especially Greece; even if it’s only for a few weeks!)

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