Meet the faces behind STEM’s most surprising art/science careers

Maddie Diamond has a successful STEM career without having gone to uni. Her alternative study pathway? A diploma at TAFE! Image: ACT Australian of the Year

By Renee Arringer and Claire Harris (Innovate Communicate)

Science and art go hand-in-hand. The five women here not only prove this statement is true, but also defy other STEM stereotypes.

Maddie Diamond, Mikaela Jade, Julia Landford, Nicole Godwin and Megan Gilmour are activists, authors, educators, tech and social entrepreneurs and community builders. They are disrupting the status quo, making change and tackling the problems that keep them, and many of us, up at night.

They are all making waves in science and art, and taking very different career pathways.
Read on to get a sense of how working in STE(A)M might not be what you think…

1. Maddie Diamond, Environmental and social activist

Maddie finished school not really knowing what she wanted to do; so she packed up from regional NSW and moved to Adelaide to see what she could find out. She started volunteering with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and her passion for sustainability began.

“I want young people to know they are actually really powerful, no matter where they come from and what they study straight out of school,” she says. “I haven’t been to uni yet, and I’m not sure if I will.

Maddie is proof that STEM + your passion = a successful career.

“While I don’t really consider myself working in STEM or a super artistic person, I definitely incorporate science and creativity into my work. I am always seeking new ways of doing things, and wanting to set up new projects,” says Maddie.

“This requires a certain kind of innovation. Particularly in imagining sustainable solutions for the future!”

Maddie is the perfect example of how following your interests and curiosity can lead to a successful and rewarding career with STEM… even if you don’t like maths at school!

RELATED: Careers with STEM even goes full STEAM ahead

Maddie’s study and career pathway

  • Volunteer, Australian Youth Climate Coalition
  • Founder, Trash Gather
  • Diploma of Sustainable Practice, TAFE
  • Executive Officer, SEE-Change

2. Julia Landford, International development specialist, botanical artist, social entrepreneur

Julia Landford runs Australia’s only natural art history school in Canberra. Growing up in Papua New Guinea, she discovered a love of culture, nature and animals.

She went to university and studied a mix of subjects including psychology and botany. Drawn to the work (and travel) associated with international development projects, Julia worked in many countries across the Asia-Pacific region, mainly working for the Australian Government. She also spent some time with the United Nations developing policies to assist with infectious diseases and pandemics.

Julia’s thing? STEM + nature!

Despite all this exciting work, Julia wanted to follow her love of nature, art and conservation and started NatureArt Lab in 2017.

“Science is part of my life every day; this could be identifying insects, watching a butterfly emerging, looking at grasslands and identifying grass species, learning about climate change and the impacts on our planet.”

“I always encourage children and teenagers to be curious, investigate, ask questions, explore and value our world,” she says.

For learning and enjoyment, Julia highly recommends nature journaling: where you observe, draw and take notes about what you see, wherever you are.

RELATED: STEAM-powered education: Can robots write poetry? 

Julia’s study and career pathway

  • Bachelor of Arts in Human Ecology, anthropology, psychology, sociology and botany, Australian National University
  • Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary), Monash University
  • Secondary Education Teacher, Hawker College
  • Masters in Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development, ANU
  • First Secretary, Australian Embassy, Bangkok, AusAID
  • Senior Analyst (Director), New York, United Nations
  • Executive Officer, Australia-ASEAN Council, DFAT
  • Social entrepreneur, NatureArt Lab

3. Mikaela Jade, Indigenous entrepreneur, augmented reality tech specialist

Mikaela is the CEO of education-tech company, Indigital.

Mikaela Jade is inspired to find new ways to digitise and translate knowledge and culture from remote and ancient communities. She has a background in environmental biology, and has spent most of her career as a national parks ranger.

She is also the CEO of an education-tech company, Indigital. She developed a mobile and hololens app, Indigital Storytelling, to bring the world’s cultural sites alive through augmented and mixed reality.

Her latest accomplishment is Indigital Schools, an Indigenous designed digital skills training program for primary and high schools students. It enables Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids to connect with and learn from Elders about cultural knowledge, history and language, while learning digital skills in cutting-edge technologies like augmented reality, animation and coding.

“My vision is Indigenous Peoples’ capitalising on our Cultural Intelligence (CQ) x Digital
Intelligence (DQ) for sustainable communities,” says Mikaela.

“STE(A)M is all around us. It’s everywhere. We are part of it. It is part of us.”

Mikaela’s study and career pathway

  • Bachelor of Science (Environmental Biology), University of Technology
  • Visitor Management Officer, Qld Parks and Wildlife
  • Postgraduate Indigenous Land Management, Charles Sturt University
  • Assistant Director, Dept of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
  • Founder (many businesses) / Founder and CEO Indigital
  • Diploma of Business, BSchool
  • Indigenous Entrepreneur In Residence, University of Wollongong

4. Nicole Godwin, Author, speaker, activist and businesswoman

One of Nicole’s great joys is receiving letters and messages from children after they have read her books.

Nicole Godwin is passionate about creating books with environmental messages. Her aim is to create captivating picture books that engage readers and help to create a generation of thoughtful, committed and compassionate individuals.

One of her books, Ella, is about a baby elephant taken from her mum to work in the tourism industry. This story was inspired by Nicole’s experience volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Sukhothai, Thailand.

“This was eye-opening and wonderful as I learned first hand about the plight of elephants and also how forgiving and gentle they are,” she said.

Nicole now partners with elephant and ocean conservation organisations throughout the world to continue to raise awareness for issues affecting our planet and its inhabitants.

One of Nicole’s great joys is receiving letters and messages from children and families after they have read her books.

“My aim is to strike a cord with children and encourage them to ask questions about the world around them. Receiving letters from children shows me that I am on the right track. They inspire me as much as I inspire them,” says Nicole.

Nicole’s study and career pathway

  • Bachelor of Accounting, University of Canberra
  • Postgraduate Diploma Professional Writing, University of Canberra
  • Author and founder of publishing company, Tusk Books
  • ACT coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (2017 to 2019)
  • ACT Writing and Publishing Awards winner 2019 (Children’s category)

5. Megan Gilmour, Entrepreneur, social innovator, Churchill Fellow, TEDx Speaker

Megan recommends young adults considering their career options think outside the box.

Megan Gilmour has had anything but a ‘normal’ life. She has travelled the world and worked on complex social and economic development operations across 24 countries. Leaving school after year 10, despite topping all of her subjects, she studied some practical business skills and went on to work in government, then publishing, then international aid and development.

Her latest career move was personal. After her son became seriously ill, Megan saw first-hand the effect that missing school can have on sick kids. So she created solutions; a not-for-profit organisation running the first Australian national telepresence robot initiative (Missing School Inc) and a spin-off for tackling social isolation in aged care, telehealth initiatives, and new ways to work (Robots4Good).

“I put robots into the classrooms of sick kids when they’re at home or in hospital so they can see there, be there, and even move around,” says Megan.

Megan has a creative and innovative approach to business and recommends young adults considering their career options think outside the box.

“I love innovating because it upends the status quo with better ways. It fuses art and science. It’s equal turns creativity, experimenting, and building something tangible, bit-by-bit,” she says.

Megan’s study and career pathway

  • Bachelor of Social Science, University of New England
  • Masters, International & Community Development, Deakin University
  • Founding Chair and Current CEO, Missing School Inc.
  • Founder and CEO, The Art of Agency
  • Churchill Fellow, 2016 – Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Canada
  • Co-founder and CEO, Robots4Good
  • Australian Financial Review 100 Woman of Influence
  • Policy Impact Fellow, Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and University of Queensland

Get inspired IRL

All women are featured as part of Canberra Women of Science and Art, an official National Science Week event.

The completely FREE event includes – two ‌webinars; hands-on ‌activities; and ‌a‌ ‌competition‌ WITH PRIZES ‌(for‌ ‌all‌ ‌ages).‌

Kids and teens (but adults catered for too) will be engaged with the stories and ideas from our speakers as well as be shown how to create drawings and craft plus get into technology like augmented reality.

Webinars are on 15 August (family focused) and 17 August (teen focused) and will be recorded and available online afterwards.

An Activity and Resources Kit can be downloaded here with plenty of fun science and art content and resources.

Renee Arringer

Author: Renee Arringer

Science communicator studying a Master of Science Communication (Outreach). I create written science content and perform engaging science shows for kids and the young-at-heart.

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