Written by Alexandra Bastick
As I come into my final year of studying my Bachelor of Science (biology major with chemistry and geology focused electives) at Charles Sturt, I remember how challenging but also, extremely rewarding it has been.
It’s been a long journey for me up to this point, as an anxious high school drop out with undiagnosed ADHD, I would never have thought something like this would be possible for me. I had no idea what I wanted to do but I eventually chose to study science because it is an incredibly interesting field, and hopefully find a career where I can help the climate crisis somehow.
AINSE Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship School and Mentorship Program
One of my favourite parts about studying science has been the incredible opportunities that I have been able to partake in. In 2021, I was chosen to participate in the AINSE Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship School and Mentorship Program, it was so inspiring to learn from some of the amazing women in STEM.
The program highlighted the importance of networking and making connections. Through networking, I found my job as a research assistant in viticulture ecology on the Orange Charles Sturt campus. I’m very grateful for my job because the research I’m lucky enough to be involved in is very interesting and I work with incredible scientists.
My daily tasks involve identifying and counting insects in samples that were vacuumed from vineyards all over the state and maintaining a light brown apple moth colony so we can study their habitat preferences.
We’re interested in promoting the natural predation rates of parasitoids on the moths, whose caterpillars are a terrible pest for grape vines. These cute little parasitic wasps lay their eggs inside of the moth eggs and consume them from the inside out for their own development.
GreatCell Energy Internship
This summer I’m undertaking an internship at one of Charles Sturt’s Agripark partner organisations, GreatCell Energy in Wagga Wagga. GreatCell Energy is a relatively new company that is doing amazing work to commercialise perovskite solar cell technology.
Perovskite has the potential to be the future of solar energy as it has a higher power conversion efficiency than traditional silicon cells, and it’s exciting to have even just a small role in its development. My job has been to analyse encapsulation methods and materials, with a focus on flexible indoor modules.
Encapsulation is important because this protects the cell from the environment, as water and oxygen degrade the perovskite, and to prevent leaching of the resulting by-products. I have been helping in some aspects of making the cells which has been super cool to see the entire process and how much goes into it.
The Future of Women & Girls in Science
I still have no idea what I specifically want to do in the future, but I know that I’m interested in postgrad studies and research. Opportunities to learn and experience different fields of work has been important to help me understand what the day to day can look like. I have found that working in a field can be very different to what you may expect from the theory that you learn at uni.
For like-minded women and girls who wish to pursue a career in science, I recommend finding things that interest you and following that wherever it takes you.
Apply for opportunities when they arise, even if you think you won’t get it or you don’t deserve it, you might surprise yourself. This includes scholarships because financial support while you’re studying makes a huge difference for your stress levels.
Make friends with likeminded people in your subjects (Intensive School is great for this) and get to know your lecturers – this can become a good support network. You might find that you’re the only girl in some of your subjects, but don’t feel out of place for that.
Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science!