Meet Molly Thomas, an engineering student who was awarded a scholarship for her skills in problem solving and leadership, and commitment to her studies.
Increasing female enrolments in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) related courses is high on the agenda across both government and industry bodies. In December 2013, Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), the Australian government’s lead agency in science and technology, set up a scholarship program that aims to close the gap the female to male ratio in STEM courses, by providing financial assistance and mentors to recipients.
Molly Thomas was one of three ANU engineering students awarded in this program that includes a scholarship of up to $40,000 for the duration of her studies.
Why did Molly choose engineering? Being a local high school student, Molly was able to attend GETSet, the annual ANU Girls in Engineering and Technology Program, when she was in year 12. It was here that Molly gained exposure to engineering through hands-on activities, including building water filters with volunteers from Engineers Without Borders.
What impacted Molly the most though was listening to a current ANU student present on the day. “We heard from a female student who told us what engineering was really about – problem solving”. From here Molly’s desire to study engineering at ANU was unleashed.
In 2015 Molly will commence her fifth year at ANU. Molly is now in the same position as the girl she had once listened to at GETSet. She too has a strong handle on what engineering is, and why more girls should think about taking it up. “People’s perception of engineers and what they do is often wrong. Engineering is more about problem solving and working in teams than I originally thought. There is a lot of human consideration in engineering design, and communication skills are really important to being a good engineer”.
“Teamwork, communication and problem solving, these are things that females are generally really good at”.
At ANU, females make up roughly 22% of the engineering and computer science student cohort, and while this is higher than the Australian average, it is important to see this number increase. This is something Molly is passionate about.
“Engineers are responsible for improving a world consisting of roughly fifty percent females. In order to fully understand the requirements and to solve problems optimally, this 50/50 ratio should also appear in the engineering profession”.
While the GETSet program initially drew Molly to engineering, the systems engineering approach undertaken at ANU was also a deciding factor.
“The systems engineering approach to problem solving taught at ANU is applicable to all fields of engineering and all types of businesses. I am really enjoying the interdisciplinary aspect of the ANU engineering degree. Already, I have completed a systems research project where I developed an iPad mount for a disabled user, and a research project with Professor Adrian Lowe, analysing electrospun nanofibres.”
“ANU is a great university with lecturers who are contributing research to their area of study, so I know that what I’m being taught is the latest in the field. Exposure to experienced and well regarded researchers, whom I admire, really makes a difference to my studies.”