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International Day of Women and Girls in Science

8 February 2018
DST recruits Danielle Heinrich (left) and Maddison Dunster.
DST recruits Danielle Heinrich (left) and Maddison Dunster.

Sunday 11 February is International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

The United Nations organisation created the Day in 2015, and it is celebrated across the world on 11 February each year to recognise the critical role women and girls play in science and technology communities.

Even though women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still underrepresented in these fields.

Two of DST's newest women scientists are Danielle Heinrich (National Security and Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Division) and Maddison Dunster (Cyber and Electronic Warfare Division). Both recently graduated and completed the DST Cadetship Program.

Q&A with Danielle Heinrich

Congratulations on your recent graduation, what did you study?

I studied a Bachelor of Information Technology (minoring in Software Development and Data Analytics) at the University of South Australia.

How will your qualifications/area of study translate into your work in DST?

I have transitioned into a Systems Engineering and Integration Specialist position within DST. My Software Development minor is highly applicable in my new role as my main task throughout the day is working within a team to develop integrated ISR software (ELIIXAR).

My Data Analytics minor has also come in handy and I’m excited to further develop my knowledge in this area.

What did you enjoy most about your cadetship with DST?

Hands-on experience using tools and software development methods that are widely used by industry but were not taught at Uni. It gave a greater insight as to how things are done in the ‘real world’.

Where would you like to be in 5 or 10 years’ time?

I would like to be respected and highly knowledgeable in my field. There are a lot of skilled people on my team who I look to for help while I am still learning. It would feel great if in 5 to 10 years’ time I am able to help new cadets or graduates as I have been helped. I especially hope to one day be a strong role model for women starting their STEM study or career.

What attracted you to DST?

I enjoy working in an organisation that actively seeks to contribute to society in a positive way. It sounds grandiose, but I want to make the world a better place. DST is responsible for applying technology to safeguard Australia and its national interests – working for DST means I can apply the technical skills and knowledge I have learnt at Uni to assist with those goals.

Do you feel there have been any challenges you experienced, as a female in the science world?

I am grateful for the progressive stance that organisations are taking in improving gender balance in STEM related study and workplaces, but sometimes I feel that I have to work extra hard to prove that I have earned recognition or a position, and I wasn’t simply awarded these titles to meet a gender quota. I don’t want people to think I have only gotten to where I am because of my gender.

Out of all the places I have worked, I have found that my colleagues and supervisors at DST have been the greatest at treating me as an equal.

What is something you think science will do to change the way people live in the future?

Brain-computer interfaces – I cannot wait to see the applications it will provide.

What’s your motto for life, or something you live by?

Do it once, do it right.

Q&A with Maddison Dunster

Congratulations on your recent graduation, what did you study?

I completed a degree in Electrical Engineering and another degree in Science with a double major in Physics and Mathematics.

How will your qualifications/area of study translate into your work in DST?

My position at DST is really great because it incorporates all 3 fields that I studied and allows me to apply the theory I learnt at Uni into real-world applications. In particular, these fields gave me strong problem solving skills that I’m finding very useful during my work at DST. I also discovered a love of information theory while studying, and have been able to do further research here at DST into some different areas of that field.

Do you have any mentors or people you aspire to be like? Who and why?

I’ve always admired Brian Cox for his ability to communicate complicated physics to the general public in a manner that both excites and intrigues. It is becoming increasingly important for scientists to be able to communicate their work to the public and explain why this work is being done, and Brian Cox is a great example of a science communicator.

What attracted you to DST?

I actually was originally attracted to DST by the undergraduate women’s scholarship I received in 2014. At the time, I was unaware of DST and what they actually did, but through the scholarship I heard about the cadetship positions and this made me look into DST further. I liked the broad range of fields at DST, and how it combines research and development with opportunities for innovation.

What is something you think science will do to change the way people live in the future?

I’m very interested in the concept of completely autonomous transport in major cities. I think this will solve many problems around traffic congestion, accidents and environmental issues.

What superpower would you love to have?

I would love to be able to teleport, and then I could travel the world on the weekends and during lunch breaks.

More information about International Day of Women and Girls in Science can be found on the United Nations Website.