Our Alumni Scholarship: Bieber, baking and Brianna abroad

By Claire Manson

29 November 2016

3 minute read

By winning our Alumni Scholarship in Physics, Brianna was able to work in Canada and form strong relationships with lead experts in her field.

Our 2016 Alumni Scholarship in Physics winner, Brianna, formed strong relationships with lead experts in her field in Canada.

Who likes cake? Sure you do, who doesn’t?

But when you think about cake you probably don’t think about the maths or physics that contributed to making that cake, you’re just focused on getting that cake in your belly as quick as possible.

We don’t often think about how our lives would look without the silent genius of mathematics and physics. It is part of everything we do and how we live. It is the key to future innovation and to progress our nation.

In order to encourage the ongoing research and development of mathematics and physics as a fundamental slice of the cake that makes up the future of Australia, we’ve set up an alumni scholarship for physics.

For this year’s Alumni Scholarship in physics winner, Brianna Ganly, her love affair with maths and physics didn’t begin with cake, it began in high school when she first set eyes on a cathode ray tube glow. And like all great loves, it blossomed from university into a position with ourMineral Resources business unit where she was accepted to do her PHD.

Brianna’s thesis is to develop new methods for measuring the metal content in unprepared rock samples for the Australian mining industry. Luckily for her some kindred spirits that share her same interest are the University of Guelph PIXE (Particle Induced X-ray Emission) group in Canada who work to improve measuring the element content of unprepared samples.

Brianna, armed with her scholarship decided to to travel to the University of Guelph to work with the group led by Professor Campbell, a world leading expert on PIXE, who is also a co-investigator on the Mars rover Curiosity’s APXS instrument.

On returning from the land of perpetual winter, ice hockey and Justin Bieber, we chatted with Brianna about her time in Canada and got some valuable advice for future STEM students.

Oh Canada, Oh Canada….

Brianna scholarship set her on course to spend some time with the good folk at the University of Guelph PIXE Group, where they made sure Brianna felt welcomed; organising BBQs, trivia nights and road trips so she could see some amazing sights.

Brianna visiting a beautiful national park in Canada

Brianna adventuring through Canada

But it wasn’t all BBQs and Bieber concerts, Brianna was able to form some strong relationships with lead experts in her field. The trip also resulted in a paper being published, titled: ‘Non-linearity issues and multiple ionization satellites in spectra from the Martian alpha particle X-ray spectrometer’ which Brianna collaborated on with John L. Campbell, Christopher M. Heirwegh – an exciting and rewarding opportunity which will see the research be applied directly to XRF in the Australian mining industry to help analysis the elemental composition of slurries, ore and bore cores.

“It’s very exciting to have my name on a paper with Professor Campbell but it will also be beneficial to my future career to have worked on a collaborative research project.”

So after all the time spent in Canada, would Brianna’s recommend the scholarship for others? You bet she does.

“Working with a different research group overseas is not only just a fun experience, it is important for every PhD student to build up adaptable research skills.”

“I think one of the hardest connections young students have is associating university study in science with a career. A lot of the STEM degrees have no clearly defined career path and that can be a daunting prospect to high school students. I think CSIRO can play a very important role in introducing students to a scientific career through scientists working in schools and through school visits to CSIRO facilities.”

Our Alumni Scholarship in Physics aims to connect the brightest young physicists or mathematicians like Brianna to a leading research centre overseas or in Australia. The Scholarship of $5000 is used to fund travel costs visit and/or conduct research in an overseas or interstate institution such as a university or research establishment of international standing in the field of proposed research.

Applications for the scholarship are now open: http://www.csiro.au/en/Careers/Student-and-graduate-opportunities/Alumni-Scholarship-in-Physics