Indigenous Cadetship Program: pushes insect-obsessed student ahead of peers

By Michelle Eynon

13 November 2020

3 minute read

Ethan at his Indigenous cadetship

Ethan Towns, a Kamilaroi man, recently completed an Indigenous cadetship with us.

We know it’s critical to develop the next generation of world-class scientists and engineers. These students will build Australia’s future science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and innovation-capable workforce.

So, how do you we do this? We invest our time and energy into students through education, training and mentoring.

This NAIDOC Week, we chatted to Ethan Towns about his experience as part of our Indigenous Cadetship Program.

Obsession with creepy crawlies

Ethan Towns, a Kamilaroi man from New South Wales, recently completed our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cadetship Program. He did the program while studying a Bachelor of Zoology and Honours in Entomology at the University of New England.

Ethan said he was obsessed with insects and anything that crawls. When he was 15 years old, he did work experience with us at our Narrabri site in New South Wales. He helped the local team set up solar light traps, which he described as “pretty hard work”.

“When I finished high school and went to university, my mentor encouraged me to apply for CSIRO’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cadetship Program,” Ethan said.

“The program has been such a great experience for me. It placed me ahead of my peers before I started uni because I had already been exposed to dissecting insects and writing papers.

“I also got to work on some exciting projects including the taxonomy of over 100 insects. I also really enjoyed working with my colleagues to examine the insects through a microscope and work together to identify what it might be. Well it was mostly a competition, against each other, to see who would be first to identify the insect,” he said.

Tray of pinned insects in the Autralian National Insect Collection showing the huge variety of different species.

We study a huge variety of different insect species.

Value of a cadetship

Ethan also grew his leadership skills while completing his cadetship.

“As part of my cadetship, I also got to teach the summer students that were working at our site. It was a great feeling being able to share the skills and knowledge I had gained from my experience with the next generation,” Ethan said.

“I definitely recommend the cadetship program to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander undergrads. Being a part of CSIRO has been such a great experience me.”

Ethan is now completing his PHD in Entomology at the University of New England. And he’s also working as a Research Assistant at our Narrabri site.

As a trusted leader in STEM education, we’ve developed and delivered a broad range of high-quality STEM education programs and initiatives for nearly 40 years. Our Indigenous Cadetship Program aims to develop the next generation of world-class scientists, engineers and staff. The program will support them in building Australia’s future STEM and innovation-capable workforce.