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Brett Rowling

Analytical chemist

Analytical chemist - Brett Rowling

Brett Rowling was studying to become a teacher when he found out how awesome the ‘S’ in STEM really is!

As an analytical chemist at ANSTO, Brett’s days involve analysing air, water and soil samples from Australia and around the world. The aim? To understand the movement of natural and man-made contaminants through environmental systems.

But Brett didn’t always know he wanted to be a scientist. “At school I liked chemistry, maths and engineering studies, and I also knew I liked talking – so teaching seemed an obvious choice,” he explains. “I could see a guaranteed job at the end and really, I had no idea what a scientist did.”

Brett scored a teaching scholarship and headed to uni. Halfway through his degree, he got into the Year in Industry program at ANSTO. “It was a fantastic position with a great mix of field sampling, laboratory and office work,” Brett says.

As part of the program, Brett saw lots of interesting science and engineering projects. “I also performed a small research project looking at soils, which was written up and presented – all great work skills that set me up for future work within and outside of ANSTO.”

During his time at ANSTO, Brett (a descendant of Bungoree and Matora) has worked on projects such as digitally preserving hand stencils from a site on his mob’s country, and studying giant clam shells from northern Australia to reveal information about past climates.

“To me as a blackfella, it’s the recent interest in our culture by the wider Australian community that’s remarkable from a career perspective,” he says.

“Our culture already has customs, lore, science and engineering which, being Australian-made, is world-leading. We have been able to take our oral stories and practical sciences from country, and marry them up with the use of modern techniques.”

Brett’s top career tip

“Look for people who will support and assist in guiding you. You want people who are there for the successes but also there when you need help.”

Brett’s study and career path to becoming an analytical chemist

  • Bachelor of Science (Geoscience) (Honours), University of Wollongong
  • Analytical chemist, ANSTO

This profile was brought to you in partnership with ANSTO and a version of it was originally published in Careers with STEM: Science.

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