Women in STEM scholarship recipient

A La Trobe University engineering student has been awarded a $20,000 scholarship as part of a program to encourage more women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Ms Caitlin Buchan is one of 25 students to receive a Defence Women in STEM Undergraduate Scholarship, announced by the Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon. Melissa Price.

Caitlin will complete work placement with the Defence, Science and Technology Group, and receive $20,000 over two years while she completes a Bachelor of Engineering (Industrial) at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus.

The 19-year-old from Bendigo said the scholarship means she can focus on her studies – in particular, pursuing her passion for software engineering, robotics and electronics.

“I’m excited for the direction this scholarship could take me. The opportunity to network with experts in my field of interest, while gaining experience helping solve real-world problems will be invaluable,” Caitlin said.

“This scholarship will be my first chance to witness first-hand a fast-paced technological environment.”

La Trobe Head Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, Professor Wenny Rahayu, said the University welcomed initiatives to entice more women to pursue careers in STEM.

“Gender diversity in areas like science and engineering leads to innovations and ideas that might not otherwise be realised – which is incredibly important when it comes to addressing real-world problems,” Professor Rahayu said.

“Like the scholarship we offer to women studying our Master of Internet of Things, this initiative goes a long way to helping women like Caitlin pursue their passion, ultimately strengthening Australia’s STEM workforce.”

As with many of her peers, Caitlin didn’t have engineering on her radar until the final years of secondary school.

“Until I was in Year 11, I’d been pursuing a career in performing and writing music. A teacher mentioned engineering to me, because of my interests and ability in maths and physics,” Caitlin said.

“After looking into it further I realised engineering plays such a vital role in helping people make decisions and shaping our physical environment – and I wanted to be part of that.

“I’m particularly interested in augmented reality; I see it playing a huge future role in how we live our lives, and I would love to be part of a team that unlocks its full potential,” Caitlin said.

The Defence Women in STEM Undergraduate Scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate academic excellence and who display positive attributes such as community leadership and extra-curricular engagement.