Virtual Inspire in 5

All of our webinars are now concluded! Thank you everyone who dialed in from home to learn about how fantastic a career in STEM can be.

Unfortunately these webinars were not recorded, but if you missed out then click here to meet some of our mentors!

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a scientist? 

Do you want to see where new technology and innovation will take us in the future?

Have you ever asked yourself how anything you learn in maths is actually useful?

Learn about careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths from the experts!



We are so excited by how many questions are being asked during these webinars! If the question that you asked wasn’t answered during the live session, please check below over the coming weeks as we will endeavour to add an answer.

Click on the sections below to read answers!

Questions about university, subject selection and school

Do you regret taking a gap year?

No, I feel like taking time off was right for me and allowed me to go into uni with more maturity. I recommend a gap year for everyone!

Is it best to do a specialised science degree or a more general one to allow for better future job options?

Mentor 1: Having a state-of-the-art specialisation is very important. I personally suggest to my students interested in forensic science do a double major forensic science + nanotechnology or forensic science + cyberforensics … something that really makes you special and “modern”.

Mentor 2: Unless you know exactly what you want to do, I believe a more general degree is a better option as it opens up many more opportunities as you decide “what you want to be when you grow up”.  In my experience, learning doesn’t stop once you complete your undergraduate degree.  As you gain more experience, you begin to understand what you are interested in.  With each interest provides an opportunity to go back and learn either through advanced degrees, post graduate certificates, professional certifications, etc

About what ATAR score do you need to get into a course at uni?

What were the universities looking for?

Is your ATAR mark the be all and end all for what uni and job you will do?  

Definitely not! There are multiple pathways into uni. This depends on the course and the university, but if you don’t meet the ATAR there are other ways to get in (one of our presenters didn’t do ATAR at all)! Universities don’t just look at your ATAR result, depending on the course you chose they might like to see a portfolio, or if you’re applying for scholarships they might like to see evidence of leadership or hardship. The best way to find out what you need for specific degrees is to have a look at the university handbooks. You can do this well before year 12, but just keep in mind that things do change so it’s important to check again before you actually apply.

When you were deciding on your courses, did you know what kind of job you wanted to go into?

Mentor 1: Not really – plus you can also be an entrepreneur in your discipline and “make” your job.

Mentor 2: No. Case in point, I’ve been working for over 25 years and I’m still discovering what I love to do.

Do we have different chemistry degrees? For example, chemistry is related to finding medicine, mining etc. Could you please suggest different chemistry degrees?

Mentor 1: We studied organic and inorganic chemistry for our chemical engineering degree, along with subjects such as kinetics and thermodynamics, but I have been told by the ‘real’ chemists that the chemistry that we did was simpler than what they learnt. Compared with the other engineering (mechanical, electrical etc.) degrees, however, our chemistry was apparently more in-depth.

Mentor 2: Different universities have different chemistry degrees, so best to check with the university of your interest. The most common is the Bachelor of Chemistry and is part of the science faculty. Other chemistry degrees include, Bachelor of Medical Chemistry or Bachelor of Biochemistry.

How hard is physics in uni compared to high school? What skills do you need?

In general, physics in university is more of an extension of what you have learnt at high school and the skills you need are the same. The difficulty builds with each year as you learn more, and the content is fascinating but very maths-based!

If you take a gap year, when you get back to university, do they take your ATAR into consideration?

I took 10 years between high school and university and they took my “TEE” score into consideration for my application. However, I do think that after 10 years I would have to complete a mature age application / test.

There are always alternative entry options – ATAR is important but it’s not everything!

Is it worth doing an external subject beside stem based subjects? How have the skills you learnt in photography benefited your career so far?

It is definitely worth doing subjects other than STEM. I use all sorts of skills in my PhD, so if you enjoy English, Music, Art or Photography (or any other non-STEM subject) – go for it!

Would you recommend having a part time job in high school?

I had a casual job during high school, it was in a café – waiting tables, prepping food, serving customers at the cash register. I would recommend getting a casual job if you can. It gives you job experience and some extra cash to spend!

Questions about work

Did you find that your career was hard to get into because of you gender/race?

No, my race or gender did not restrict me from following my dreams.  If anything, being a female in a largely male dominated profession has probably been an advantage as companies seek to diversify their work force.

To enter a science pathway do you need to be a researcher?

Mentor 1: Not at all. There are lots of science pathways that aren’t research (but research is also fun so you should try it!)

How did COVID effect your job?

Mentor 1: COVID has had minimal impact on my current job. If anything there has been an increase in work as more companies are building or retrofitting their manufacturing capabilities in preparation for COVID vaccine production.

Mentor 2: COVID has meant a lot of online meetings, working remotely and having to stay in isolation as I travel between my work sites.

What were some good study ways to remember lots of specific information?  

Mentor 1: Flashcards!

Mentor 2:  I found group study to be an effective way to study and test each other on knowledge and key topics.

Mentor 3: I like colour-coding my notes, it helps me remember different topics more clearly.

Is there more written aspects to these jobs rather than practical?

How much time do you spend in an office a week?

When you do research, the only way to share research with the scientific community is to write research papers, so there is definitely a written aspect in the job of a researcher. Depending on the time of the year you spend more or less time in the office, because you have spend time in the field/lab to get the data that you will write about as well.

Mentor 2: In my role of a computer system specialist, my time is split 50/50 between the office and hands on.

When did you know what you wanted to do for a career?  

Mentor 1: Not really… when I was at Uni CSI was not a hit on TV… I just wanted to work “with nature” and use nature for a meaningful application.  I was introduced to forensic entomology at Uni and the rest is history!

Mentor 2: Not really. I think the important first step is knowing what you enjoy doing and your strengths.  As you gain more experience and exposure to industry and working, you find what it is you love to do – your passion.

What’s the most complicated thing about your work/job?

I find analysing my data the most complicated thing. But there is lots of support and resources when it comes to data analysis, so I am getting better all the time.

Questions for a forensic scientist

Have you solved any crimes?

I definitely have 🙂 but solving a crime is always about team work. You work along side the police, the pathologist, the prosecutor etc. everyone provides a piece of the puzzle to get the final picture.

How many cases do forensic scientists generally solve in their careers?

It depends if they are an expert witness or not, sometimes zero, sometimes heroes… plus sometimes they work on cases but they don’t solve it.

How did you learn the entomology stuff? Did this involve any zoology?

Yes! Zoology is the study of animals – and bugs are definitely animals! They are the animals most present on the planet – from glaciers to deserts, from rivers to your cupboard. Entomology is a university subject, they teach you a little bit of everything, but I specialised myself on the insects present of dead bodies… they stink, but they are amazing, you can really solve a case with them!

Questions for a medical doctor (emergency)

Where can I find some more information about the pathways in medicine?

If you head to this site, you will be able to find all the info you need! 🙂

What makes the long study to become a doctor worth it, for you?

Being able to help people in all sorts of different ways. It’s really rewarding.

Do you specialise in children?

No, I will be specialising in emergency medicine but that does involve seeing children as well when they come through the emergency department.

If you are not the best at math can you still be an emergency doctor?

Yes! You’ll learn what you need to know as you study and work, so your specific grades in high school math aren’t all that important.

Questions for a biochemist/pharmacologist (PHD)

How long do you expect your PhD to take to complete?  

Most people take 4-5 years, but it depends on a lot of factors!

Is there a lot of animal testing?  

Animal testing is an unfortunate reality of medical research, but we go through strict ethics approval and have protocols in place to reduce animal use where possible, and replace them with cell lines or computer simulations where possible.

Questions for a pharmaceutical computer system specialist

How long do all of the pre-release phases take?

It depends on the complexity of the system. For new manufacturing facilities, the project can take 3 to 4 years do to all of the pre-release phases; for existing facilities where a new or upgraded computer system is being installed it could be 1 – 2 years.

How do you find out about internships available?

While my experience is based in the US, I understand it to be a similar process here in Australia – Companies would advertise job openings and recruit for internships at various universities

Did you find that maths helped you a lot in your career?  

Maths helped me to develop and enhance my problem solving skills. I problem solve on a daily basis.

Questions for an electrical engineer

How soon after graduating engineering did you do your MBA and how has it helped your career?

Commenced studying for my MBA about 4 years after graduating. Recommend that you work and gain experience before any further studies (unless you want to do research) because that will help you understand the course better and after getting experience you have a better idea of what you want to do with your career. I apply what I have learnt in my MBA for about 60% of what I do.

Is there more opportunities working remotely as an electrical engineer or are there also good jobs in the city?

Electrical engineer has more opportunities in the city compared to other specialised engineers (such as oil and gas or minning or chemical engineers). Electrical engineer can work on projects such as buildings, power plants, water plants, railways etc which are all based in the city.

Questions for an AR/VR technologist

Was it difficult to get NASA to accept your robot on the ISS?

The robot actually belongs to NASA! They lent it to my company because oil & gas surprisingly shares a lot of similarities with space (e.g. opening a valve, opening an airlock), so we were a good fit to test out and improve the robot’s capabilities.

Questions for an environmental PHD student

What did you not enjoy about bushcare, and how does your work now compare with that?

Being a bushcare officer had a lot of awesome things going for it, like organising community events and assessing bushland for ‘Land for Wildlife’, but unfortunately I was working alone (mainly) and I realised how much I love being part of a team. The majority of the work also involved assessing fences for farmers who wanted to fence off bushland on their farms. Although this is great in theory, it just wasn’t for me.

Questions for an ecologist

How do you keep a track on the counting of animals like the red tailed black cockatoos?

Good data management! In the field I had a paper datasheet where I wrote down important information like the date, time, location (GPS coordinates and street address), number of cockatoos, and what they were eating. Then when I got back to the computer I would download the videos to my computer, add the video number to the datasheet, and then add all the data to a big spreadsheet.

What do you think you might do in the future when you finish your PhD?

In order for data to be useful you need at minimum a date, location, and species ID. You can start collecting your own data by writing species observations in a notebook, or by using something like iNaturalist on a phone. You can add the data you collect to projects run by scientists and researchers, which then makes you a Citizen Scientist. It’s a great way to be involved in science from your own backyard or local bushland!

Your research sounds very interesting. Also, was the bird you were banding in that photo a Bower Bird?

Good eye! Yes, that was a Bowerbird! Specifically a young male Satin Bowerbird. Only adult males have shiny blue-black plumage, and the females and juveniles have lovely scalloped green plumage. Did you know that juvenile male bowerbirds will apprentice with an adult male for up to 7 years to learn how to build a bower and impress the ladies? So cool!