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21st Century Scientist - Girl Shaped Flames

On 20 May, two CHAC students and I went to The Precinct, Fortitude Valley to immerse ourselves in the world of Science. The day started off with an interactive Q&A with Antarctic Researchers, who had recently returned from the largest all-female expedition to Antarctica. These incredible women all worked in vastly different areas of Science, yet came together for an important expedition. Once they introduced themselves we had the opportunity to ask them questions about their field and their trip.

We were then introduced to six female scientists from a variety of disciplines. We were divided into six groups and had one on one conversations with these women to understand their career paths and the infinite areas that Science can take you. Concluding these networking sessions, we were provided with a delicious lunch served by Campos.

After lunch, two more women came in to lead us in interactive workshops. The first workshop was held by Dr Chamindie Punyadeera. She informed us of her inspiring journey of getting into medicine despite setbacks and hurdles along the way. Her workshop was about perseverance and resilience.

The second workshop was held by Dr Talitha Best, a psychologist, professor and author, who focuses on the effects nutrition can have on neurocognitive function. She explained the importance of communication and helped us identify the different styles of communication each of us had.

I had an amazing day and left with a feeling of inspiration and admiration for the women and for Science in general. I would encourage everyone to participate in these events because they are exceptionally beneficial regardless of what grade you are in.

Isabella Hohnke, Year 12

Over the weekend, a small group of CHAC Senior girls joined a group of 60 girls from all around Queensland for an incredible Science networking and workshop event. This event was run by FUEL: Girl Shaped Flames to help teenage girls learn more about what they might want to do in their future careers.

A group of three women who had been part of a women-only research and networking expedition to Antarctica started the day off, enchanting us all with their tales of the beautiful wildlife that resides in Antarctica, including inquisitive and fluffy penguin chicks and a friendly pod of humpback whales that swam with their ship for a short while. They also inspired us with stories of the research and collaborations that were happening on some of the Antarctic bases. One of the Scientists talking to us is using the connections made on the Antarctic expedition to try and start a project with one of the bases, looking at the venom of Antarctic Sea anemones and how it could be used, which was fascinating. The trio also told us about the evidence of global warming that they had seen with their own eyes, whether it be the shrinking krill population or the receding icebergs.

After that, we participated in a ‘speed-dating’ event where we moved from Scientist to Scientist to ask questions about their journey to where they are now, or their research and career. One of the most fascinating Scientists, Jordan Debono, works to separate particular chemicals from snake venom to help target certain parts of blood, which she believes will eventually help people who suffer from haemophilia or need to take heart attack medication. As snake venom is natural and highly specialised, the parts she separates out only alter precise parts of the clotting processes, and so a venom-based treatment will be perfectly safe and will not have unwelcome side effects, unlike many medications for blood-related disorders now. Other women we talked with included Dr Candice Michelle Goodwin, who balances a life as a Film Writer and a Scientist, and Tacha Mulligan who works with seals and dolphins at Sea World.

Before the end of the day, we took part in two-hour workshops. One of these was looking at communication styles and taught us how to recognise how different people communicate so we can work together better. This workshop was invaluable, and I know that I, for one, will endeavour to use it in group projects at school. The other workshop was focused around persistence and resilience in both Science and our everyday lives. This workshop was run by Dr Chamindie Pundadeera, an inspirational Scientist who persisted at her passion and job despite all the troubles that life threw at her.

One of the most valuable things that I took away from the day was that it is possible to balance Science with another passion, and that you shouldn’t measure success in terms of money or a single achievement. We all really enjoyed ourselves and learned a lot from the experience. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more, and network with older scientists as well as girls our own age. Overall, I would definitely recommend this Girl Shaped Flames program to any teenage girl interested in Science or wanting to know more about the types of work and careers that Science offers.

Rebecca Leonard, Year 9