Kate Boersen is the Community Science Coordinator for East Coast LAB and a Master of Science student at the University of Auckland.
What do you do on an average work day?
Basically, I work with scientists so we can learn more about natural hazards and how they can affect us, and, at the same time, my role is to encourage people living on the East Coast to understand the risks of living life close to the boundary of two tectonic plates. As we are so close to this boundary, it means that we can be affected by a number of natural hazards like earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes and even coastal hazards. The more we understand about what causes these natural hazards to occur, the better we can be prepared.
I really think I have no average work day and that is what I love about my job – the variety of stuff that I get to do and learn about! I talk to different scientists from New Zealand and elsewhere to hear about their research and what they are currently up too. I look at different ways to get people interested in natural hazard science. I go on Facebook (for work of course!) and keep our website up to date. I think of new ways to engage people with science and I am currently working on an interactive education project where people can come and experience what it is like when natural hazards caused by plate boundary movements occur.
What did you study at school? And after high school?
At school I studied Geography, History, English, Biology, Chemistry and Stats and Calculus. Geography was definitely my favourite and so this is why I decided to continue to study at university along with Environmental Science. I really love learning and after finishing my Bachelor of Science I decided to continue on at university and did my Honours year in Geography but specialising in environmental management and environment science. After doing my dissertation I decided I still didn’t want to stop and now I am doing my Masters of Science in Geography. I’m looking at New Zealand’s aid to the Pacific region following a disaster.
Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Geography is the study of the people and the environment and this is exactly what I am still learning about. How natural hazards (the environment) affect us (people). This became a particular interest of mine after doing a paper at University of Auckland called GEOG325: The Human Dimension of Disasters. I also tutored a couple of Science Communication papers at University and this has really helped me as most of my work is around communicating science to the community.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
Choose a subject that you are passionate about and don’t worry where you will end up. Failing that, choose something that vaguely interests you and don’t worry where you will end up – everything will fall into place eventually.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
I have always worked either part-time and fulltime but always on a more temporary basis as I have been studying too. This is my first full-time and permanent job. It has all the good bits of my other jobs in it - working on something that I find exciting and interesting and working with others who find the same things as exciting and interesting. Having like minds is a highlight for me!
Why do you believe engaging in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) – whether it’s working in the field, studying it or just educating one’s self around the issues – is important to New Zealand?
I think it’s not just important to New Zealand but also the rest of the world. Our world is a physical one and there is so much we cannot control and that we don’t know about. We just have to deal with when events occur, for example tsunami or earthquakes. Science helps us predict and understand and recover (hopefully!) from these events. We are very lucky to live in New Zealand with our natural environment. We have many diverse geographical features like fiords, mountains, plains, plateaus and geysers. These aren’t unique and are found in other parts of the world but you'd have to travel great distances to see them. We don’t need to travel so far but we need knowledge, and in particular STEM knowledge, to make sure we value and protect this unique environment.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
Each gender has its strengths and I think we need to have diverse opinions as we are a diverse people, not just in respect to gender but also culture. I know it is generalising, but men and woman can have different priorities and perspectives and all voices need to be heard. Women often offer a different view point and a different way of looking at things and this is very valuable.
Kate Boersen is the Community Science Coordinator for East Coast LAB (Life at the Boundary) and a Master of Science student at the University of Auckland.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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