Growing up, I went to four different high schools across four different countries before my family settled permanently in Australia when I was sixteen. I often feel like my life is a long, non-linear path figuring out my interests and what I like. For that reason, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts after finishing high school. The degree allowed me to keep my options open and I sat in on every class I could—even ones I wasn’t enrolled in.
Eventually, I realised what I enjoyed most was science and in particular, ocean and atmospheric sciences. I liked how the atmosphere and the ocean connected everyone globally. Having met the requirements, I chose to graduate with a Bachelor of Science with Honours. After working for a year as a scientific officer, I then decided to enrol in a PhD.
My research interests lie over a range of timescales—from local atmospheric processes that impact weather and air quality through to what role the oceans play in climate variability. I am part of a team who developed a citizen science project which places weather and air quality sensors in schools which has captured observations from the Black Summer bushfires and COVID lockdowns. The project has just been announced as a Eureka finalist which is extremely exciting. I am currently a Science Policy Fellow in a program run by the Office of the Chief Scientist which places scientists into federal government departments. It has been very interesting to see how science is integrated into policy and how decisions are made.
Late last year, I saw a post on social media calling out for STEM professionals to coach girls in high school. I had worked quite a bit with high school students already but usually in groups. I thought a one-on-one coaching experience would be an interesting and hopefully impactful experience. I applied and was selected as a coach. I was not disappointed. It was a great experience, and I met some wonderful students and women in STEM.
I think Curious Minds has an important role in normalising women and girls showing an interest and passion in STEM. Curious Minds allows students to form relationships and create networks based on this interest. I reckon success in any field is 1% inspiration, 49% perspiration and 50% your networks. Curious Minds delivers all of that for bright, inquisitive young minds and I’m proud to have been a part of that.
Angela Maharaj is an Australian Science Policy Fellow, an adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) at UNSW and President of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS). Angela is only the second female and first person of colour to hold the AMOS Presidency.