With Extension Maths, Physics, Biology and Chemistry all part of her HSC study load, Veronica Wenn is among a new wave of young women primed to follow their interest in a scientific career.
To this, the Year 12 student at St Clare’s College Waverley has added valuable exposure to the practical side of STEM-based work through the University of NSW Women in Engineering Camp.
Veronica was one of 100 young women from across Australia selected for the week-long camp during the January school holidays.
It exposed participants to biomedical and petroleum engineering workshops, networking opportunities with industry professionals, and site visits to places including NSW Transport and the naval base HMAS Waterhen.
“It was pretty amazing,” Veronica said.
“When I told my mum I was going to a women in engineering camp she was really happy for me because she didn’t have any opportunities like that when she was younger.
“All of the site visits were emphasizing ‘we want you to do engineering – pursue that career and we will hire you’. They are looking for women to enter the field.”
I enjoy Science and Maths – I like that they are practical.
Veronica also worked in a group of six to design a system to provide clean drinking water to rural regions of India and present a three-minute pitch of their idea.
“India is about 60 per cent agricultural land, and there is runoff that affects the drinking water in smaller rural towns. We came up with a water tank that would pump water using solar powered energy.
“The water goes into a tank and is filtered through sand to get out the bigger pollutants, then uses chlorine tablets to disinfect the water and UV lights to disinfect the water even further. It’s safe to drink after that.”
Students were paired with a current UNSW engineering student to be their ‘house mother’ for the week and help them with their activities.
Veronica said the experience was an eye-opener, and plans to study biomedical or mechanical engineering when she graduates.
“I was told that a lot of companies look at an engineering degree in a positive light,” Veronica said.
“They see that you have the ability to problem-solve as well as the skills from your degree.
“I enjoy Science and Maths. I like that they are practical and that there is an answer you can figure out and apply to real-world applications.”
You can’t really dream of something that you can’t see.
Veronica’s first exposure to university Science was a work experience program in 2017 that allowed her to shadow PhD candidates and professors at the UNSW Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology.
There she presented a thesis on dilution refrigerator that cools down quantum ships to 2018 Australian of the Year Michelle Simmons, who was recognised for her pioneering work in quantum computing and vocal support of encouraging gender parity in science and math-based careers.
Veronica was told about the quantum program by a teacher at school, but said most opportunities were not well publicised. She said it was important to see women like Professor Simmons excelling in Science careers.
“It’s super important, especially because you don’t see a lot of women up there,” she said. “You can’t really dream of something that you can’t see.”
“She’s so intelligent and really humble and nice – I look up to her a lot. It’s also good to have people encouraging you to do these things. I really want to encourage other girls to look for opportunities.”