From biochemistry to national security: meet Grace Law

Grace Law smiling standing in front of a cityscape.

Grace Law is one of the outstanding individuals recently awarded a National Intelligence Community and National Security College Scholarship for Women.

She caught up with us to talk about her transition from science to national security and how an undergraduate course on the ethics of human and medical genetics ultimately set her on a pathway to studying a Master of National Security Policy.

Thank you for your time, Grace. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I went through quite a few different career trajectories. 

I wanted to be an architect for quite a while, but my dream was ultimately crushed when I realised my talent did not lie in drawing.

My interest subsequently went into law because I felt strongly for fighting against injustice and protecting rights.

I then became attracted to biology and chemistry, and I very quickly wanted to become a forensic scientist and work in healthcare because of my desire to give back to the community.

By the end of all that, I realised my skillset lay in reasoning, analysis, and problem solving and that I would love a career that is varied and different. 

What did you study for your undergraduate degree?

My area of undergraduate study is probably quite different to what you would expect. I completed a Bachelor of Science majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology. I then went on to do an Honours year last year, working on a project that validated a malaria drug target. 

What first got you interested in the field of national security?

It was during my undergraduate degree in a subject that had a focus on the ethics of human and medical genetics. 

We frequently share our biometric data nowadays, whether it is unlocking our phone with our fingerprint or with facial recognition or uploading a video online. But our genetic data is often handed over, analysed, and stored without proper consent or an understanding of the implications. 

This information can be exploited by companies or foreign powers and used for unintended research, stored in a database, or help develop surveillance tools. Awareness from policymakers and the public is lacking in this area. We are still quite a long way off addressing it. 

As you transition from studying biochemistry and other areas from a purely scientific standpoint to looking at them more closely through a national security lens, how has your thinking been shaped or extended?  

As I started to consider issues I’d previously studied from a national security viewpoint, I noticed that there are many ways to look at something and different people will place emphasis on different aspects.

I would say national security is surprisingly similar to science. Both are extremely logical and analytical, and both are trying to develop solutions to problems by considering all the evidence.

Aside from your interest in the intersection of genetics and national security, do you have any newfound areas of interest since starting your studies? 

I am also interested in the role China plays in international relations, especially in our region. They are a global power that is becoming increasingly influential, and can undermine our interests, values, and identity. 

Australia is one country leading the way in this space – being aware of China’s capabilities and working on policies that address this while still maintaining diplomatic and trade relations.

Are there any courses or themes you have particularly enjoyed learning about so far while studying the Master of National Security Policy?

I am still too early in my degree to be able to name a particular course, but what I do really enjoy is the breadth and depth of themes that are covered. You can really tailor the courses to your areas of interest, or areas that you wish to learn more about. For example, I can learn about science and technology, pandemics, intelligence, and China, and how they all have a part to play in Australia’s national security. 

Do you have any advice for women who are considering applying for the National Intelligence Community and National Security College Scholarship for Women?

Don’t be afraid to apply, I would love for you to join us! It might seem like a daunting field to enter, where women seem to stand out from the norm. But this scholarship is all about giving women an opportunity, and the differences we bring can only mean better representation of the Australian community, and a national security field that better reflects the diversity of our country.

Regardless of your background, interest, or skills, I am sure the community will be able to benefit from your expertise. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Enjoying myself in the fascinating and mysterious field of national security! I would love to join the public service to work on protecting the rights and freedoms of Australians. But as I said, I want to work on various problems, while continuing to learn and grow, so I can already see myself trying out different roles. Hopefully in 10 years’ time, I would have built up a unique and diverse skill set that will allow me to continue to contribute to the national security field. 

All the best with your studies, Grace. And thanks for your time!

Interested in applying for the National Intelligence Community and National Security College Scholarship for Women? Expressions of interest can be sent to crawford.degrees@anu.edu.au.

The views expressed in this interview are those of the participant, and not of any organisation with which they are affiliated, or of the ANU National Security College.
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Updated:  1 December 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head of College, National Security College/Page Contact:  Web administrator