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ICYMI: Highlights from our STEM + X panel at QUT Open Day

STEM + X panel

Get STEM study and career advice from a software engineer, research scientist, QA tester, conservation officer and an associate professor

At this year’s QUT Open Day, future students were super lucky to hear from five STEM pros who know a thing or two about landing the ultimate career in science, tech, engineering and maths.

Our amazing STEM + X panel was made up of:

Vanessa Lussini: grad and current research scientist at the Reserve Bank of Australia, transforming everyday plastics to enhance sustainability.

Joel Hockey: QUT grad and software engineer at Google, making an impact through ChromeOS and Chrome features.

Rachel Hempenstall: QUT grad and QA tester at Gameloft, contributing to award-winning Apple Arcade games.

Kate Hofmeister: QUT grad and conservation officer at Sunshine Coast Council, championing wildlife research and conservation.

Kate Helmstedt: QUT researcher and Associate Professor of Mathematics, using maths to guide smart ecosystem management.

Every single panelist brought an exciting and unique perspective, as did QUT’s Professor Troy Farrell (Executive Dean, Faculty of Science) who moderated on the day and Heather Catchpole (co-founder of Refraction Media and Careers with STEM) who set the tone with an introduction to what STEM + X is all about.

(Still not sure what STEM + X is? You should definitely read this!)

In case you missed the panel, here are some juicy takeaways…

There are no mistakes when studying STEM

It’s all useful, according to Vanessa Lussini (research scientist at RBA). What if you start a STEM degree and realise it’s not for you? Not a problem. The skills you picked up along the way are bound to help you out down the track. And it’s no big deal to switch to another study area and gain even more STEM skills!

Choose something you’re passionate about

This was Rachel Hempenstall‘s (QA test at Gameloft) best STEM study advice. “I was really bad at school but really good at uni. That’s because I chose a degree I was interested in. I wanted to learn and that helped me through,” she said.

Vanessa added, “Follow what you find interesting and enjoy what you do every day.”

Into earth and environmental science? Other sciences can help

Kate Hofmeister

Especially physics and chemistry! “Having an understanding of the basic concepts will help you solve problems in your future career, said Kate Hofmeister (conservation officer at TurtleCare, Sunshine Coast Council).

Maths is for everyone

And it’s such an important skill to have in any STEM career! Kate Helmstedt (Associate Professor of Mathematics at QUT) shared that, “Maths isn’t about five geniuses sitting in a room. It’s about working with other people and working with other fields, finding out what questions they have and how can your mathematical skills help.”

… and it’s also different from high school maths

Kate added, “Maths in high school, maths in uni and maths as a career are completely different things.” Good news if it’s not your favourite school subject but you’ve still got an interest in it. Try maths out at uni and see where it can take you.

Do a double degree

Joel Hockey

It gives you all the career options, agreed the whole panel. Joel Hockey (software engineer at Google) said, “I studied maths and IT as a double degree. I highly recommend doing a double degree.” On pairing IT with maths he added, “Strong maths skills give you the ability to bring multiple approaches to a problem solving.”

Core skills are also important to STEM

These include communication, problem solving, creativity and teamwork. Being able to communicate effectively is really important as this will help other people connect with and understand your work.

QUT prepares you for the real world

Professor Troy Farrell (Executive Dean, Faculty of Science at QUT) shared some great examples of how studying STEM at QUT can set you up for life after uni. This is done through authentic work-integrated learning. Study computer science and work with companies like Airbus and Boeing. Study ecology and work with Indigneous Rangers on K’gari ecosystem management. Or choose operations research and work with SEQ Water on scheduling and operations of their fleet of water tankers.

Look out for uni networking events too! That’s how Rachel scored her cool job as a QA tester at Gameloft.

You can pair STEM with pretty much anything

Heather Catchpole

Heather Catchpole (CEO and co-founder of Refraction Media and Careers with STEM) shared some fantastic examples like:

  • Technology + fashion = creating immersive beauty experiences online
  • Maths + sport = making sure that athletes perform at their best and prevent injuries
  • Technology + education = create gaming worlds that teach First Nations culture and language

For more on how to combine STEM with your passion, hobbies and interest (we call this your STEM + X), check out the QUT STEM + X Guide.

For more STEM career videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel!

This article was produced in partnership with QUT.

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