In conversation with Sophie Johnstone

Sophie Johnstone profile

Hi Sophie, thanks for chatting with us!

What sparked your interest in wanting to explore STEM as a field of study?

Since the moment I began to understand what it was, I have been passionate about science and the natural world. I wasn’t the toddler that played with dolls. Instead, I wobbled my way out to the garden to watch butterflies, collect rocks and try to catch skinks, frightening my mother with whatever creature I chose to carry back in my bucket each day. In pursuing this part of who I am, I have committed myself to pursuing a future in STEM, so that I can continue the important work led by my inspirations such as Jane Goodall, David Attenborough, and Katherine Johnson and potentially one day make a difference in the world! The NYSF 2022 program has helped me brighten that spark and inspire me to work hard to pursue STEM as a field of study.

Where do you hope your STEM journey might take you?

I am hoping that my STEM journey may take me into a field of research in areas such as biomedical or marine biology where my constant curiosity and yearn to discover will be supported and I am certain that I would be able to make a difference within the world. The research field is diverse and there are endless opportunities available to help others and discover so many important things that will help revolutionise our understanding of science! I am hoping that one day I may be able to combine my passion with art as I am also particularly keen on art, and I am hoping that within research I may be able to communicate my findings with this passion in my later journey!

Who are some of your STEM role models?

Role models are very important when somebody needs motivation to continue working hard. My STEM role models are Valerie Taylor, Jane Goodall and Katherine Johnson as they are such powerful and intelligent women who have completely taken the field of STEM to a whole new level. Valerie Taylor is particularly inspirational as she combines her passion for marine conservation with art and and is able to create art that helps educate others visually about marine conversation and communicate knowledge in a unique and artistic way. I am also passionate about art, and Valerie has helped teach me that I am able to combine these two passions, which is something many people don't realise that they are able to do! I hope that one day I may be as great as these incredible women and be able to make a significant contribution to STEM that changes the lives of so many people and revolutionise our understanding!

Could you share 2 or 3 highlight recommend reads or podcasts that you think would be of interest to others interested in STEM?

My absolute favourite read is David Attenborough's 'A Life on Our Planet', where Sir David Attenborough discusses his experience as a science communicator and his career pathway. He also educates on his predictions for the future in climate change and how we may be able to conserve the planet for a brighter future. This is a great book for those who are curious about climate change and how they may be able to help protect the Earth.

Another book I may recommend would be Valerie Taylors, "An Adventurous Life", where she discusses her exciting experiences and career pathway into marine biology from someone who hunted sharks for fun, to someone who devoted her life to protecting them. It is a sweet and inspiring story for those who are interested in marine biology and the ocean and this book inspired me to consider marine biology as a possible field of STEM to study in the future.

Another favourite book of mine is Norman Doidge's "The Brain that Changes Itself" where the fascinating workings of the brain is explained and evaluated, which I have found incredibly interesting. He discusses both personal and relevant stories of triumph from the frontiers of brain science that many people who are interested in STEM would find highly remarkable and fascinating if they may be interested in neuroscience.

What would you say to other girls and young women considering a STEM journey?

Something that I would love to let young women considering a STEM journey know, is to realise that the field of STEM has a place available for everyone and anyone no matter their background, interests, how 'smart' they are or how much they know. Too many girls and young women don't realise how accessible and open the field really is. There are countless opportunities and positions available and it is such a beneficial and an exciting area. From becoming an astronomer, helping to find a cure for cancer, or maybe even coding the next exciting app or piece of technology that will help people globally, there is no skill that will go unnoticed. You don't have to be a math whizz or achieve the top grade at your school, there will always be a place for you as long as you have a passion. As Serena Williams says "Everyone's dream can come true if you just stick to it and work hard", which is something I feel resonates with me and hopefully other young girls too. Passion can get you anywhere within STEM, and the field is so exciting and full of opportunities that it is impossible to not somewhere that suits you perfectly!

I am endlessly grateful for the opportunities that have been provided for me through NYSF. From learning how to become an Astronomer to finding out the secretes to the microscopic world of E.Coli bacteria, I have learnt so much and am incredibly inspired to pursue a career in STEM. Before the NYSF program I felt very alone within the field of STEM and was unsure about my future, although now with great thanks to everyone who made NYSF possible, I am confident and motivated about my future and cannot wait for the adventures to come. I have been so many incredible connections with like-minded students across Australia that have made the experience so insanely fun and helped me feel at home within STEM. I hope that anyone considering to take part in NYSF does so as it is such a life changing experience!

 Sophie Johnstone work