Women and girls in STEM: Sarah Onoprienko

Sarah Onoprienko is a senior student at a regional high school in Queensland. Hear her thoughts on biomedicine, maggots and the struggles she expects as a young women working in STEM.

Sarah Onoprienko is a senior student at a regional high school in Queensland. Her senior subjects include physics, chemistry, biology, accounting, mathematical methods and general English.

From 2020 to 2021 Sarah took part in Curious Minds, a STEM Coaching program for Year 9 and 10 girls from regional and rural areas.

Photo of Sarah Onoprienko

Which STEM field are you most interested in and why?

I am most interested in the biomedical fields of science as I am a very curious person and I want to be able to help people in unconventional ways.

Through science, the lives of so many people can be changed for the better. Each experiment, each step towards a cure, improvement or new discovery helps people. I see biomedicine as a way to help people without becoming a healthcare professional, and the field will let me follow my passion and this cause.

Who or what inspired your interest in this field?

I attended the Cancer and Aging Research Program (CARP) in Brisbane for my work experience in 2021. For a week I was surrounded by PhD and Masters students who were making discoveries to help find a cure for cancer.

In 2020 I and a group of my peers worked with the Griffith University MedMagLabs Team for a citizen science investigation where we created data that went towards supplying sanitary medicinal maggots to war-torn countries.

Where do you see yourself working in the future?

I have been lucky enough to be exposed to these programs thanks to my extremely passionate science teacher. She engaged me in our first lesson and has encouraged me to pursue every chance, providing me with countless opportunities to extend myself and experience different fields in STEM.

In the future, I would love to work in a lab surrounded by people with similar interests and different skillsets who are all dedicated to using science to improve healthcare.

I think it would be a great experience to work with universities on research investigations, and I would love to be able to travel to spread my knowledge with the world and make a difference.

What do you think might make it hard for girls in STEM careers?

I believe that I will struggle as a girl in a STEM career as – while it is slowly changing – these jobs are still male-dominated areas which can be incredibly intimidating for young women. I don’t think it’s a stretch of the imagination that I would face discrimination, be significantly disadvantaged in getting support from my peers, and face more significant repercussions for mistakes as a woman in STEM.

While I recognise that the field is slowly evolving with society, I believe it still has a fair way to go before women will be equal to men in science fields.