Meet the scientist schooling kids on STEM stereotypes 

STEM education
As a young woman with a science PhD, Megan (right) already breaks some lingering stereotypes. Image: CSIRO

Through CSIRO’s STEM professionals in Schools program, Dr Megan Sebben is challenging kids’ perceptions of what a science career can look like 

Megan has had a varied career, from groundwater hydrology research to consulting. She currently heads CSIRO’s Kick-Start program, an initiative that provides start-ups and small businesses with funding support and facilitates access to our research expertise and facilities. 

“I never envisioned myself as a scientist,” said Megan, who had a lightbulb moment when her high school career advisor suggested that a science degree could give her the flexibility to go into science or management. 

And now? Megan hopes to help students have lightbulb moments of their own. 

Real-world STEM in class

Megan is one of over 1,200 STEM professionals participating in the STEM Professionals in Schools program. She’s particularly passionate about getting students thinking about the purpose and application of science, tech, engineering and maths subjects beyond their textbooks. 

STEM education
Dr Megan Sebben (second left) recently visited Footscray High. Image: CSIRO

Megan recently shared her unique career pathway with Year 9 and 10 students at Footscray High School’s Meet a Scientist event, and how a family trip to New Zealand’s Franz Josef Glacier sparked her interest in water and sustainability.

“I didn’t really understand why I was being told to study calculus,” she said. “Then, in my first hydrology lecture at university, I learned how these equations could tell me the shape of the water table underground. This in turn, enables us to work out how much of this can be used sustainably. So, I became really engaged with it,” Megan said.

STEM is for everyone

Megan sees STEM programs in schools as a way to challenge students’ perceptions of who could be a scientist, and what a STEM career can look like. 

“There are some incredible female scientists out there doing awesome work. We’re always saying you can’t be what you can’t see,” said Megan, who would’ve loved to have greater access to female STEM role models when she was at school. 

Lucky for the next-gen in STEM, the STEM Professionals in Schools program has the potential to have major, positive impact. 

“There are kids from a lot of different backgrounds getting huge exposure to science and technology through the program. Science is for everyone. I don’t want anybody to feel that it’s not for them, because it absolutely is,” Megan stresses. 

Get involved and inspire

Keen to participate in CSIRO’s STEM Professionals in Schools program? Although it’s currently Australia’s largest national skilled volunteering initiative for STEM professionals and educators, the CSIRO is always looking for more volunteers. And yep, it’s very much a flexible program that’ll fit in with other work commitments. 

Megan for instance, arranges her involvement with the schools depending on what’s going on with her other work. Last year, she visited Footscray High School twice. She also held video calls with The King David School over the course of a month for an environmental sciences module. 

“Even though we may only spend half an hour talking to the class, for the kids to get exposure to people working on interesting things could be a life-changing experience. I think you can underestimate the contribution just a small amount of effort can make. And I think this program lends itself really well to that,” Megan said. 

Keen to know more? Reach out to the CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools team here.

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Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.

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