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By  Jessica Hildyard 18 September 2023 2 min read

Key points

  • The Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy is helping Sam achieve her goal of becoming a toxinologist.
  • Sam is partnered with one of our research scientists and they are hoping to produce a research paper together!
  • The Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy is currently accepting applications from female students in Year 8.

Not everyone can say a snake helped them make an important career choice.

Sam is a student and Kamilaroi woman. As a young girl, she became one of an estimated 3000 people bitten by venomous snakes in Australia every year. It was a frightening event, but it inspired an enduring interest in toxinology, the study of toxins from plants, animals, and microbes.

Today, Sam hopes to make a career of working with venomous animals. She is well on her way to achieving her dream, thanks to the Young Indigenous Women’s STEM Academy. The Academy gives young Indigenous women the tools and support they need to succeed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

Sam is a young woman of many talents.

Snake research leads to mutual adder-ation

Carlie Ring is Sam's Academic Coordinator. When Sam joined the Academy, Carlie connected her with Dr Daniel Dashevsky. Daniel is studying venom evolution at our Australian National Insect Collection.

Sam and Daniel met fortnightly. They discussed the underappreciated aspects of biology and current research and techniques. But most importantly, they talked about the venom of a Malagasy snake they are investigating.

The two are continuing to make meaning out of their data. It includes mRNA sequences as well as the experience of a researcher who sustained a non-threatening bite. They even aim to publish a research paper on their findings!

Daniel and Carlie are both in awe of Sam’s knowledge and the detailed scientific questions she asks. It's an impressive start to an early-stage STEM career.

“Sam isn’t afraid to step out. She was the first young woman in her cohort to put her hand up to connect with a STEM professional,” Carlie said.

“During camp she persevered with activities she hadn’t done before. Like diving with sharks and working on the marine boats with turtle releases. She’s a brave risk taker, not afraid of trying new things. And these personal qualities are what has led her to these opportunities.”

Sam and Daniel are studying Madagascarophis colubrinus, or the common Madagascar cat snake. ©  John Sullivan via iNaturalist

Indigenous STEM student reveals krait-ness

Sam is already recognised as a bit of a rock star by her school and Academy peers across the NSW region. She has already inspired other young women in her region to think about STEM and how to share their areas of interest with others.

As well as finishing university, she hopes to one day travel the country and to teach kids about venomous animals. Sam says she’d like other children to know what to do if someone is bitten, and there is no adult around.

Sam isn't just a budding toxinologist and snake-handling hero. She has a black belt in martial arts, is in her school’s coding club and is learning to play violin in her music classes.

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