Dr Lorna Strachan is a Senior Lecturer of Sedimentology at the School of Environment at the University of Auckland.
What do you do on an average work day?
There is no such thing as an average day. Each day brings with it a range of different tasks. My time is split around doing teaching, research and administration. In reality this means that I juggle a lot of balls, preparing and teaching lectures, conducting research, writing papers, meeting with my research collaborators and postgraduate students, planning and doing fieldwork, and attending and presenting at conferences.
What did you study at school? And after high school?
I went to school in the UK, I studied Biology, Geography and Art at A level. Some would think this is an unusual combination for someone who has gone on to pursue science, but I actually believe that my art background has proven to be immeasurably valuable. The nature of geological fieldwork and the tiny clues left behind in the rocks mean that geology is a very visual and creative discipline. After high school I completed a degree and PhD both in Geology.
Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Yes. Both my degree and PhD provided superb training for my current role. However I didn’t embark on a Geology degree to become an academic. That happened somewhat by mistake.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
Choose a degree subject that excites you personally, and keep following that passion. You never know where it will lead.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
Career highlights include getting my current lectureship position, having my first PhD student complete, and the opportunity to travel to some lesser trodden parts of planet Earth to do fieldwork - for example, these photos are of me out in the field in Timor Leste.
Why do you believe engaging in STEM – 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 that STEM is a worldwide issue. The multifaceted problem of engaging women in STEM is complex, not simply a reflection our education system, but also cultural and social norms.
I believe that active discussion at a national and international level are important, firstly to raise the profile of inequity in STEM, secondly to understand why this exists, and thirdly to support our flourishing next generation of STEM women. I also feel there needs to be discussion and support for more flexible working following parental leave. This is a serious consideration for many women.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
With more and more women entering into STEM related disciplines at universities, the percentage of women in the work force will increase with time. Given that 51% of humans on the planet are women, it should be a given that the workforce in STEM somewhat follows this demographic.
Dr Lorna Strachan is a Senior Lecturer of Sedimentology at the School of Environment at the University of Auckland. You can follow her on Twitter at @NZSeds
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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