We spoke to Arjumand Banu Khan, an environmental scientist and science communicator who is passionate about helping young people appreciate the wonders of STEM.
Hi Arjumand! How did you get into STEM?
A: Ever since I was a little girl, I was always curious to know how things work. One night my brother and I sneakily decided to stay awake the whole night and watch the sunrise. Well, I couldn’t (and neither could he) but I heard a lot of fairytale-like hypotheses the next morning. This curiosity helped me in becoming an early bird and I felt interested in every aspect of nature and would explore near river for hours with my siblings. Eventually, I felt more interested and very passionate about science and was lucky enough to be able to pursue my passion throughout my profession.
You then went on to become an environmental scientist, and then you founded STEM Catalyst, which is all about helping young people to enjoy STEM through hands-on activities and tech-based experiments. What else would you like to achieve in the STEM world?
A: Through the current STEM initiative under STEM Catalyst umbrella, I would like to create a platform where migrant STEM professional women can participate in programs and find pathways to merge into the Australian workforce without hindering or losing their STEM expertise.
Why do we need more diversity in the STEM workforce?
A: Every person brings a diverse set of experiences and perspectives on problem solving hence I strongly believe diversity is critical to excellence. Enhancing cultural diversity in STEM workforce will enable long term economic growth and global competitions and best possible solutions.
And what do you know about STEM now that you wish you’d known back in school?
A: The importance of apprenticeships and work experience and the role of parental encouragement.
Top tip for students wanting to get into STEM?
A: Apart from ongoing encouragement to my daughters to aim high and get out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves, I suggest they don’t get convinced by the answer to “why things occur a certain way?” unless they investigate. There is a great amount of untapped potential in our children which unfortunately gets carried away due to lack of opportunities and STEM engagement in middle primary school level. When they reach high school, it’s way too late. Providing hands-on learning for the middle primary level children and following them till their career achievements is a suggested case study for the organisation in the long term.
And what STEM jobs do you see being big in the future?
A: Environmental engineers, environmental software developers, environmental consultants and eco-sustainable construction developers.
Arjumand’s STEM study and career path to becoming an environmental scientist and science communicator
- Bachelor of Science (India)
- Master of Environmental Science (India)
- Early Years Research Support Worker, Merri Health
- Scientist and science communicator, Royal Society of Victoria
- Sustainability Taskforce Member, Hume City Council
- CSIRO – STEM Professional in Schools
- Founder and CEO, STEM Catalyst
Author: Louise Meers
Louise is the production editor for Careers with STEM. She has a journalism degree from the University of Technology, Sydney and has spent over a decade writing for youth. She is passionate about inspiring young people to achieve their biggest goals.