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Brittany Carter

Research project advisor

Brittany Carter is a Wiradjuri woman working as a research project advisor with CSIRO to highlight Indigenous peoples’ contributions to biological collections

By Brittany Carter with Jaina McIntyre

I’ve always enjoyed learning. My mum had always wanted to be a teacher – so in my home, learning was really encouraged, and mum worked really hard to support us and our education. I knew since I was 4 years old that I wanted to go to uni and study science, I just didn’t know what kind. 

In Grade 11 and 12, I was doing Biology and Chemistry as subjects. In Biology, we started doing genetics and I was hooked. That led me to wanting to study medical genetics at uni, but once I started, I knew it wasn’t for me. 

RELATED: Find more Indigenous role models in STEM

I was the first person in my family to go to university, so I had no idea what to expect or how it worked. It wasn’t what I originally thought it was and that made it hard to stay motivated. But I’m quite stubborn and didn’t realise how much I was struggling and how burnt-out I was. At the time I was also experiencing some loss in my personal life, so it became quite hard to stay focussed but, in the end, I graduated and got my Bachelor of Science in genetics.

Finding your place

During my first year out of uni, I felt stuck. My friend had just completed her Bachelor of Science in Zoology and was starting her Honours. Because I’ve always liked animals, I thought I’d give that a go. I completed a Graduate Diploma in Science in Zoology then a Master of Science in Zoology at the University of Melbourne. 

I was studying a species of lizard, but discovered I really didn’t want to be a research scientist – I’m not a big public speaker and I realised it could be a big part of my role. I moved to Canberra and studied a Master of Science Communication at ANU, and worked in science outreach and education for a few years. 

My job at CSIRO is a lot different to anything I have done so far, but I have the skills for it – I just didn’t realise it. I’m working on highlighting Indigenous peoples’ contributions to biological collections and embedding their voices and views. Though it wasn’t what I thought I would be doing, it’s something I feel I’m able to help make a difference in, especially with all the skills and knowledge I’ve gained through the years.

Accessing support

I know for a fact that I would not be where I am today without the support of my family. I’d say I’m a bit socially anxious and that can hold me back sometimes, so my family and their support have been one of the biggest motivators to keep me going. They created an environment that fostered an interest in learning and always supported me and my interests. On top of that, I’m very determined which has helped me push through a lot of the hard times and helped me to keep pursuing what I want to do.

If I could tell young people anything, it’s that STEM careers aren’t always what you think. It’s not all lab-coats and microscopes. There are so many jobs out there that come under STEM and there’s many different pathways to get there. 

The one piece of advice that I would give to young people who want to pursue STEM careers, or any career in general – is that you must be able to listen to other people’s perspectives. Growing as a person means always reevaluating how you do things. Sometimes people are going to know more than you and in order to keep learning and growing; having humility is a really great skill to have.

Brittany’s pathway

  • Studied Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics in Grade 11 and 12
  • Bachelor of Science (Genetics) at University of Melbourne
  • Graduate Diploma in Science (Zoology) at Melbourne University
  • Master of Science (Zoology) at University of Melbourne
  • Completed a Master of Science Communication at ANU
  • Research Project Advisor at CSIRO

A version of this profile also appears in our upcoming issue of Careers with STEM: Indigenous. Sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on its launch date.

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