In celebration of IWD 2021, we take a look at three of our amazing clients and how each of these women began their journey into STEM.

Katrina Sealey

Head of Research Data and Software

AAO Macquarie University

1. What inspired you to get into astronomy?

From a young age I was always fascinated by the night sky. I would spend many nights lying on the bonnet of the old FJ Holden in the backyard with my binoculars and starmaps. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to do Year 10 work experience in the Astrophysics Department at UNSW. This opened my mind to all the career possibilities I could have with my fascination. The academics were great mentors to me during this time and for many years following.

2. How did you start working in the field of astronomy?

I followed the traditional path of a Science degree with a major in Physics. Following this I undertook a PhD Astrophysics. During my PhD I had the opportunity to utilise many different observational astronomy techniques. I quickly realised research computing and software development came naturally. Rather than pursue a research astronomy path I took my first role developing astronomical software, and designing and building astronomical computing infrastructure.

3. What do you like most about working in STEM astronomy?

I am very passionate about science and in particular astronomy. My current role as Head of Research Data and Software at AAO – Macquarie University allows me to enable researchers to deliver the best scientific outcomes by providing researchers with access to data and tools to understand the universe, whilst at the same time nurturing the next generation of research data, information and software engineers. I am very fortunate to work alongside a team that is equally passionate about enabling research. The work that we do helps support our understanding of our environment and the broader universe. I enjoy getting up each day to work alongside my colleagues and finding out what we have learnt today about the universe.

Milica Symul

Director, Research and Innovation

University of Canberra

1. What inspired you to get into STEM?

I wanted to understand how the universe works! That’s why I studied physics and did my PhD in particle physics. I was inspired by Richard Feynman’s lectures and books. I had a whole series of his textbooks.

Back in early 1992, I lived in Moscow very close to a monument of Yuri Gagarin which is a 42.5m high statue. On the way to school I would always admire the great pioneers of space explorations. That’s what inspired me to get into STEM.

2. How did you start working in the field of STEM?

I finished my bachelor degree in physics and went to do my PhD at ANU. I worked as a researcher, but due to the lack of permanent jobs, I decided to move into management roles. Although I am not currently doing science myself, I am working very closely with researchers to develop their funding proposals, find the right industry partners and commercialise and monetise research.

3. What do you like most about working in the STEM sector?

My favourite part about working in the STEM sector, is the dose of adrenaline that I get every time I talk about exciting projects and opportunities that will change the world. The recent Mars landing is a classic example. Being able to visit JPL and have discussions with people who are actually building the rover, and then seeing Perseverance rover landing flawlessly is an amazing feeling.

I want to think that through my work, I am enabling researchers to reach their potential and make an impact in the world. In the words of Buzz Lightyear “To infinity and beyond”.

Tracy Burrows

NHMRC Research Fellow, School of Health Sciences

University of Newcastle

1. What inspired you to get into STEM?

I like being able to understand things, how things work or why they happen and what would/ could make them happen. I also like to find answers or go on a quest to try to find them.

2. How did you start working in the field of STEM?

I took a lot of science / maths type subjects during school and always enjoyed them, then found roles where I could extend and apply them and to be able to help improve peoples health … dream 😊

3. What do you like most about working in STEM?

Working with great people, finding answers and helping people improve their own lives.