Nuclear scientist

Patricia Gadd

When instrument scientist Patricia Gadd looks into the contents of lake sediment cores, it’s like looking back in time.

Patricia, along with other researchers at ANSTO and around the world, takes deep slices of lake sediment by dredging up the layers of soil, sand and rock and uses them to tell us things about the past.

These cross sections of earth are placed into ANSTO’s Itrax core scanner. This machine hums away, using an X-ray radiograph to track differences in density, the composition of elements (eg, if there’s a high concentration of calcium, silicon or other elements), and the magnetic properties of the soil.

“By studying these sediments, we can infer things like precipitation rates, ecological changes, and types of vegetation, as well as pollution events that might have taken place. If we’re to understand the environment we live in and what we might face in the future, we need to understand how we got here in the first place.”

From looking at the past, to shaping the future, Patricia has a real passion for igniting STEM interest in young women. Patricia had a natural inclination to maths, chemistry and physics at school, but couldn’t understand the diverse career options she had.

“It is difficult to perceive the opportunities you can’t see. That’s why it’s important that students visit industries and organisations where STEM opportunities exist.”

She’s actively working to change that. Taking on the role of mentor, Patricia recently had 6 year 10 girls visit her lab to get a real hands-on feel of what a STEM career might be like.

“A career in STEM will guarantee that you will never be bored. STEM careers equip you with skills that instil curiosity. You’ll continue to look for answers and solve real problems whether they be big or small for the rest of your life.”

 

TO GET THERE: Visit ANSTO’s website.

 

Patricia’s pathway to analysing lake sediment cores at ANSTO

> > Bachelor of Applied Chemistry, University of Technology Sydney

> > Analytical Chemist, ANSTO

> > Instrument Scientist, ANSTO

“It is difficult to perceive the opportunities you can’t see. That’s why it’s important that students visit industries and organisations where STEM opportunities exist.”

Eliza Brockwell

Author: Eliza Brockwell

Eliza is the Digital Producer for Careers with STEM. Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.

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