Career insights from the coolest women in nuclear science

Are you a woman thinking about getting into nuclear science? We hit up the female staff at ANSTO for a major pathway pep talk.

Women represent half of the population, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at your average science organisation. Lucky big companies like ANSTO are hiring increasing numbers of diverse STEM grads! The public research organisation has an award-winning plan in place to increase gender equality, with a goal of 50:50 overall representation by 2030, and minimum 40% females and 40% males in leadership roles this year.

Here, three women from ANSTO share the ins and outs of their jobs for anyone considering a career in nuclear science.

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Shakila Fernando, ANSTO Graduate (Chemist & Innovation Development)

“As a chemist, I undertake organic synthesis reactions to create ligands which attach to radioisotopes to enhance the radiation dose to targeted tumours when treating with particle therapy. My day-to-day includes undertaking a hazards and chemical risk assessments for any experiment prior to conducting them and then I get to safely conduct my experiments. I will also validate the reaction completion as well as the purity of my compounds using analytical methods such as HPLC and NMR. This project is still in the research and development phase, however I also assist in securing funding for the project as well as identifying commercial opportunities.

Shakila believes that research innovation is driven by diverse teams and perspectives. Image: Lauren Trompp

“What I love the most about my job is the fulfilment I feel when I know the work that I do has the potential to change lives and the way we treat some cancers across the globe. I also love to help apply research and innovation from papers to the real world by talking to people and organisations who can use the research to improve their treatment methods.

“I am passionate about ensuing that all Australians are able to gain the benefits from the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. Therefore I am heavily involved with the Australian Young Generation in Nuclear to ensure young professionals in my industry are able to network with other experienced professionals.

“We need more women working in STEM as I believe research innovation is driven by diverse teams and perspectives. There are so many intelligent and passionate women with amazingly creative ideas who need to chose STEM, pursue their ideas and solve problems to make the world a better place.”

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Madhura Manohar, Accelerator scientist

Madhura loves that the scope of her research is continually broadening. Image: Lauren Trompp

“My job involves using a particle accelerator to assess samples for research areas such as air pollution, energy storage, archaeology, zoology and any other disciplines impacting health, environment and innovation. I love that the scope of my research is continually broadening. I learn something new everyday!

“STEM careers can enrich the lives of those who choose this path as well as those around them, and gender diversity is central to strengthening any team. For any other young women wanting to pursue a career in science, it’s important to diversify your skills and never stop learning new things.”

Dr Katie Sizeland, Research Program Manager (Human Health)

“My job combines two very different aspects. Half of the time I manage a research program in Human Health at ANSTO and half of the time I am doing my own research on collagen biomaterials. By understanding the hierarchical structure and mechanical properties of these collagen biomaterials, it is possible to create stronger medical materials and optimise patient outcomes.

As a woman in STEM, Katie is a huge advocate for diversity in science. Image: Lauren Trompp

“I love working on medical, agricultural and textile materials and bridging the gap between synchrotron science and real world applications. This means I am working on solutions that have real-life benefits such as stronger medical scaffolds for tissue engineering and stronger leather.

“One of the best parts about my job is the creativity and problem-solving required and I love when I get to jump on the beamline at the Australian Synchrotron and conduct experiments. I am passionate about science outreach and communication and I love that my job at ANSTO enables me to engage with the public on science and engineering and with the next generation of STEM. It also provides a great platform to advocate for women in STEM and diversity.

“Through my journey I want to show the world that seemingly impossible dreams are actually possible and that we all have the power to make the world a better place. I want to be a catalyst for change and spark a curiosity in STEM in the public, in the science world and in the next generation.”

This article is brought to you in partnership with ANSTO

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma has a degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney and spent a semester studying environmental journalism in Denmark. She has been writing about science and engineering for over a decade.

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