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2019 Country Education Foundation of Australia Audi Foundation scholarship recipient, fourth-year the University of Newcastle maths and science student Grace Best looks to challenge the current figures of women in STEM (science, technology, engineer, mathematics) environments as a statistician in the Australian Space Agency.

22-year-old Grace is studying a double degree of a Bachelor of Mathematics and a Bachelor of Science, majoring in statistics and physics.

This trailblazer is on track to pioneer an amazing future given positive high distinction and distinction grades to date, as well as her staunch views o gender equality in her chosen career field.

Her mind-boggling talents include advanced skills in various mathematical fields including calculus, linear algebra, modelling, combinatorics, graph theory and statistical analysis; as well as training in higher order computer programming in multiple languages to further explore and apply these maths and physics concepts.

She hopes to become part of the new Australian Space Agency team, to apply her skills in statistics; with ambitions to one day contribute to projects such as refining satellite-assisted agricultural cropping methods or even analysing how to eliminate space debris.

“This setting will enable me to apply the skills and knowledge I’m currently acquiring in my double degree to help achieve ground-breaking initiatives and fulfil my fascination with astronomy,” Grace said.

Grace is the only female physics major in either the maths or science programs, and one of very few women in all predominately-male STEM courses.

She said gender inequality in science and mathematical fields is clear and hopes to pioneer progress through a change in social attitudes towards these fields of learning.

“I would like to help increase the interest and involvement in STEM areas, particularly for women,” she said, noting the CSIRO’s first female CEO Dr Megan Clark as an inspiration.

“The stigma that maths and science are boring, too difficult, and/or ’nerdy’ needs to change. The under-representation by women in STEM is glaringly apparent to me, the only girl in many of my classes at university. I would love to inspire future thought-leaders to pursue a passion for STEM and achieve a balance for better”.

Grace grew up on her family’s farm outside of the small NSW town of Grenfell, attending Henry Lawson High School to attain her Higher Schools Certificate in 2014.

She is very thankful for the support from the Grenfell Country Education Foundation and her hometown community for helping her continue with her studies in times of drought.

Grace Best is a major recipient of the 2019 Country Education Foundation of Australia Audi Foundation scholarship, and receives $2,500 to aide her STEM-related studies.

“Support from Country Education Foundation has definitely helped me and will support me in many, many ways into the future. It’s much appreciated,” she said.

Along with empowering gender equality, Grace hopes to create more awareness about rural and remote education disadvantage.

“There are big discrepancies in the messages presented in rural areas compared to cities about education and further education,” Grace said.

“It’s almost a matter of surviving the HSC in the rural areas. There’s an added level of difficulty in the bush with the amount of opportunities and resources available.”



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