Updating Results

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)

4.5
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Shakila Fernando

From engaging with the industry at conferences to communicating the impact of the amazing research that is being conducted at ANSTO, I have been able to take an active role in growing and developing research projects.

What's your job about?

ANSTO is the home of Australia’s most significant landmark and national infrastructure for research. Thousands of scientists from industry and academia benefit from gaining access to state-of-the-art instruments every year. My roles in this program have revolved around developing ANSTO’s innovation community and generating research impact. My daily tasks have included working closely with researchers to develop commercialisation plans, business models, map stakeholders as well as donning appropriate PPE to get into the lab and do some synthetic chemistry myself. 

From engaging with the industry at conferences to communicating the impact of the amazing research that is being conducted at ANSTO, I have been able to take an active role in growing and developing research projects.

What's your background?

I grew up and went to school in the suburbs of South Sydney. I had always been interested in science as a kid- I’ve probably done every experiment in Glen Singleton’s 101 Cool Science Experiments and seen every episode of Backyard Science. So naturally, when I did my HSC, Chemistry and Biology were at the top of my preferred subjects.

When it came to choosing subjects for university however, I was a bit more conflicted- I definitely wanted to do science but people told me ‘there are no jobs in science’. I stuck to my gut instinct however and chose to do science (chemistry) but also chose commerce (marketing) as it always interested me.

I enjoyed how different they were and always thought of them as being independent of each other. This was becoming an issue as I was getting closer to finishing- I have to choose the field I want to work in? Would one of these degrees be a complete waste?

In my penultimate year of university, I thought I would start practising the interview/assessment centre process by applying for some internship (something I couldn’t recommend more). I didn’t actually consider the implications of getting one but I built up my communication and interviewing skills.

This is actually how I started my journey at ANSTO – as a 2017 year in Industry intern, working as a laboratory technician doing hydrometallurgical chemistry.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes. My role is driven by a passion for impact.

Every time I read a research paper, I always think about the impact, how it can make the world a better place, the journey from moving it out of a research paper to a tangible product or service that people can use. If you like thinking about the future and can understand and communicate science effectively to a range of stakeholders then you can do my job. I’ve used the skills I’ve learned in both my degrees for the roles I’ve had at ANSTO and the background you have is the value you will be bringing to the team.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I love communicating with external stakeholders about the research that we are conducting at ANSTO and building and maintaining the relationships that I have developed. I love being able to talk researchers through the commercial process and bringing their ideas into reality.

What are the limitations of your job?

If you are from a STEM only background, having a commercial background has helped me a lot in my roles – it has framed my way of thinking which is different from most people who have been through a research pathway.

If you are from a commercial background, my science degree has deepened my understanding of scientific methodology which has assisted me in effectively communicating the science underpinning the projects I deal with.

No matter what your background is, you must have an appreciation for science as well as have the business acumen to develop ideas.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  1. Take every opportunity to get involved with university life and make friends – even with your lecturers.
  2. Get involved with your university’s innovation hub and start developing any ideas you have – unis provide a lot of support to develop them
  3. Have fun!