Katie is a Year 13 student with an insatiable curiosity for science and medicine. She will be studying Health Sciences at the University of Auckland next year.
What do you do on an average work day?
As a Year 13 student at Palmerston North Girls' High School, my average day involves juggling schoolwork and a part time job with extracurricular activities.
I like to spend my leisure time volunteering for Red Cross New Zealand, Relay for Life and at the local Hospital. At school, I am a tutor for students who need help in Biology, Chemistry, Physics or English subjects.
I believe that it’s essential to find a balance between work and life as a good balance will positively affect your performance from day to day. After school, I like to go play sports as it’s fun, social and you get all your neurotransmitters going. My current favourite sports are golfing, badminton and soccer.
What are you studying at high school?
The subjects that I am taking this year are Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, Home Economics and English. I've always had a profound interest in science and the human body since I was young, and this interest turned into a passion when I took part in Brain Bee in Year 11. This annual competition, held by the University of Auckland, tests students on their knowledge of the brain and its functions. Brain Bee opened my eyes to the huge range of possibilities available in the fields of science and medicine.
Are your studies related to what you do now or what you want to do as a career?
Absolutely! Next year I will be studying Health Science (HSFY) at the University of Auckland. This course really interested me because of my fascination with how the human body works and human interactions. It was a challenge to choose one field of study as there are so many options for degrees in Health, Science and Technology.
I am the sort of person who loves to have many options available, and HSFY combines everything I love - science, public health, social science, ethics and human biology. I am planning on studying a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery after my first year of Health Science as to continue my passion for health of individuals and populations.
My passion for science and medicine stems from discovering the knowledge others have found about the world around me, and how when our understanding grows we can make changes for the better. I also love health science because I believe it is international, and can be shared with, and benefit, everyone around the world.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
I am no wise owl, and someone wiser than me once told me to “live a life of significance, not just success”.
I think that the most important ingredient in the recipe for determining your career is to make sure you do something you are passionate about. Something that keeps you motivated and inspired to wake up early each day because you enjoy what you do. A good approach is to find out what you are naturally good at. Ask your friends and family. Do you have an unquenchable thirst for laboratory work? Perhaps you’ve always had a passion for marine biology?
I think passion, like all other skills, act as building blocks and would be meaningless without setting up the right foundation beforehand. Make sure that you are taking the appropriate subjects during high school for your future career. It is best to keep your subject choices open, such as taking Maths and the Sciences, because each subject has unlimited paths that are each unique in their own way.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
I am actively involved in the Palmerston North Girls’ High School Gifted and Talented Programme. I have been a Science Fair youth judge, Science and Technology Fair entrant, attended Hands on at Otago, and took part in the NZIBO, Brain Bee and New Zealand’s Next Top Engineering Scientist.
I try to participate in every opportunity that comes my way, especially if it’s science oriented. I was recently awarded a Gold Team CREST (CREativity in Science and Technology) medal for my 18 month long investigation into the development of an effective insect repellent using Kawakawa, Lemon Eucalyptus and Yarrow with my teammate Zoë Glentworth [see Zoë's profile here]. Our study won the Premier Fonterra - Best in Fair - Science award at the Manawatu Science and Technology Fair along with prizes for statistical analysis and internships at Fonterra Research, Massey University and Landcare Research.
I would like to give a special mention to Dr [Heather] Meikle, who has been my mentor and inspiration over the past few years. Her profound knowledge in areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has contributed greatly to all my success.
Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?
New Zealand society could greatly benefit if more people were engaging in STEM, because pursuing STEM-related fields provide us with a greater capacity to solve national and global issues.
While we have become increasingly reliant on technology, due to its great advancement in the fast-paced era of today's society, STEM focusses on much more - and because of that, we can solve globalised issues such as climate change.
Ultimately, STEM holds the key to unlocking the solutions to complex real-world issues and we just need to find a way to utilise it more.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
STEM is universal, and what’s universal about a single gendered approach?
The lack of female representation in the STEM field is discouraging. A greater balance between the genders is crucial as it allows for a unbiased view of situations, and provides equal opportunities for everyone.
It is important that, in order to form a strong path for the future of STEM, the perspectives of both men and women are included in it.
Katie Liu is a Year 13 student at Palmerston North Girls’ High School who has an insatiable curiosity for science and medicine. She will be studying Health Sciences at the University of Auckland next year.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.View all profiles