Isabelle (they/them)

Academic Researcher,
Mathematics and Climate Science

Watch Isabelle’s video

What did you want to be or do when you left school?

When I left school, I was a little convinced that I was going to end up as an engineer, but I did really enjoy maths so I decided to start there. I think along the way I realised just how many opportunities maths opened up, and how much I enjoyed solving real-world problems with mathematics. I also saw my sister doing an engineering degree and although she loves it, I realised it wasn’t for me. Now that I’m researching climate science I feel like I’m getting to use maths to solve some of the most important problems out there!

Were you familiar with the industry you now work in before you started?

I thought I was…until I got into it and realised I had so much to learn!

What are some of the coolest things you like about working in your industry?

I love that I get to look at data, concepts, and ideas that no one else has just yet, and not only that but doing this is able to help others by (hopefully) producing important results that will help improve decision-making around climate risk.

What do you love most about the work that you do?

I love the people I get to work with! Whether I’m hearing about someone’s research, asking for help, or presenting my own work, the people around me inspire me every day. I also love all the different opportunities around research – I don’t think I ever can get bored!

 What successful strategies have you used that have helped you transition to working in a non-traditional industry?

I suppose I started in a non-traditional industry, most people in my mathematics degree were men, and whilst there is great student diversity in academia, lead academics are predominantly male. For me, taking advantage of the leg-ups I could get (e.g. career development programs) and connecting with other women and gender-diverse folk in STEM not only taught me a lot but gave me an incredible network to lean on if I was ever frustrated. Furthermore, making an effort to seek out male allies has been super helpful, and I am really grateful for all the times that men around me have stood up to say certain things aren’t ok and have made equality their issue too.

How did you get started in your career pathway and what helped you along your career journey?

I just really, really enjoyed maths, so I decided I wanted to keep studying it! Now, I’m driven more by an awareness of how serious the climate emergency is and the need to do something about it. Along the way I am so incredibly grateful to my friends and mentors (and people who have been both friends and mentors) for constantly reminding me that I deserve to be where I am – I’m not just lucky, and I am good at what I do.

What or who has influenced your career pathway?

The biggest influence was a very short conversation with a friend and (informal) mentor who mentioned the lab I am currently at. Although I really wanted to make my mathematics work for the climate, I’m not sure I would’ve quite known how to without his advice.

In school what subjects did you enjoy most or were good at?

In case it was not yet obvious from the rest of my responses, but I really enjoyed maths! I also loved French and English, and so I did a Diploma of Languages during my undergraduate and am very thankful for all the time I spent improving my writing skills throughout high school via these subjects.

What type of qualifications do you have?

After Year 12 in South Australia (2 x Maths, Physics, English Literary Studies, French) I got a Bachelor of Mathematical Sciences (Advanced) and a Diploma of Languages (French Studies). I’m now working towards a Master of Philosophy (Geoscience).

What advice would you give to others ( girls/women) about following careers in non-traditional industries?

Go for it! Know your worth – you deserve to be in whatever degree/internship/company that you want to be in. You didn’t get where you are just because you’re lucky, you are phenomenal, and you earned it.

Lastly, how are you making your own mark?

As a non-binary scientist and mathematician, sometimes just being out and proud makes its own kind of mark on a space. Beyond that, I’ve been honoured to work with other students and hope I can support them to reach their goals the same way I have been supported to reach mine. Lastly, I hope that my research will help, at least a little, in the fight against climate change.

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