When a chance meeting offered Lillian Caruana a chance to work in her dream office, she grabbed the opportunity with both hands
When it comes to great career opportunities, sometimes you have to make them yourself. That’s what happened for Lillian Caruana, a Bachelor of Science student by day and researcher at ANSTO in her spare time.
Lillian came across ANSTO during a tour of its facilities with her Year 10 class. “I decided right there and then that I was going to work here; I just fell in love with it,” she says. While her determination came quickly, getting there took a little longer.
It took a chance meeting with a CSIRO scientist at the National Youth Science Forum for Lillian to meet Professor Elliot Gilbert, her current supervisor. After emailing him, she found herself doing a two-week internship. While she assumed she’d be running for coffees, Elliot had something else in mind.
“He asked me to come up with a research report, and the research looked worth pursuing. Now, I come back during university breaks and run the experiments for real,” Lillian explains. “We don’t know what to call it, is it an internship, is it work experience?” she laughs.
While not everyone will find themselves in Lillian’s situation, she swears by the importance of utilising your resources – even if you think you don’t have any.
“At uni, you’re surrounded by academics. Ask them questions. Your lecturers are scientists, the people that run your labs are real scientists with real research,” she says.
In her own research, Lillian used neutron scattering (Small-Angle Neutron Scattering) and microfluidics to create a new way to test soft matter substances like shampoo to understand how they behave under pressure.
Her research has changed from improving sample environments for the benefit of scientists to understanding the behaviour of molecules in soft matter, and could lead to her publishing a paper before she even finishes her degree.
It would be easy to dismiss Lillian’s success as just good luck, but she cites hard work, determination and curiosity as the key to her success. Being surrounded by strong female scientists like her colleagues at ANSTO only strengthens her career determination.
“Because I’m so passionate and determined, my drive is helping me get ahead. Being at ANSTO, seeing lots of females in strong roles makes me think, I could be there one day too.”
– Eliza Brockwell
Lillians’ pathway to ANSTO:
> > Bachelor of Science (Chemistry), UNSW Sydney
> > Internship, ANSTO
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.