Meet Tiffany Brown, a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Water Management) graduate and current CQUniversity Honours student who is working to localise the understanding of the impacts of microplastics on the environment. Throughout her time with CQUniversity, Tiffany has been awarded an Iwasaki Foundation Tertiary Education Bursary and more recently, was announced a Fitzroy Partnership for River Health Scholarship recipient. Inspired by her mum, Shirley, Tiffany is determined to remain strong and never give up on her dreams. CQUniversity celebrates her achievements this International Women’s Day 2020.
This year’s IWD theme is #EachforEqual. What does this theme mean to you?
Our circumstances in life – whether it be gender, culture, wealth, etc. – does not have an impact on our worth as individuals, or limit what we can achieve. We should all be treated with respect and offered equal opportunities to succeed. The world is becoming more and more accepting and accommodating of individuality. I believe that a lot of the time, we hold our own selves back with the preconceived ideas we have of what we can and can’t do. ‘Each for Equal’ combats those ideas that have been imprinted on us and encourages people to push past their limiting notions.
In the spirit of IWD, do you have any female role models who inspire you? If so, how?
My mother Shirley is my greatest female role model. She was hit by a truck when she was 6 years old and fought in a coma for 6 months. She was told she would not walk, and she did. She was told she would never have children yet raised five daughters. Mum is permanently disabled both mentally and physically but pushes every single day to break the constraints people have put on her. She is inventive and gets things done, her own way. She has taught me to be strong and never give up – that if you want something bad enough, you can make it happen. People will tell you things aren’t possible, but that doesn’t mean they are. Work hard and think differently.
How has CQUni helped get you into your career and set you up to succeed in the future?
During my studies at CQUniversity, I have gained incredible connections and friendships with my lecturers due to the small class sizes. The lecturers will remember you in the future and will not hesitate to offer opportunities if you apply yourself and are interested. These opportunities have allowed me to gain both ‘book-skills’ alongside practical experience which helped me to be more confident in future work and study. These connections have also lead me to become a casual research assistant at the research precinct of the University, learning from the highly esteemed researchers working for CQU.
What led you to study microplastics?
I have always had a passion for the marine environment. Every spare moment I have is spent at the ocean either diving, kayaking, camping or walking my dog. It’s hard to ignore the number of small plastics that I come across on the beach. Most of the time I bring a bag with me to pick up the plastic I notice, but when they are small, it makes it an impossible task to collect them all.
I completed a Summer Scholarship offered by CQUniversity which allowed me to choose any subject area I liked and lead a short-term study of my own. I chose to look at microplastics in the waters and sediment of Gladstone Harbour. Throughout this study, I came to realize how little microplastics research had been completed and how little we know about sources, clean-up strategies and effects once in the environment.
The Summer Scholarship gave me the confidence and inspiration to continue down this microplastic-research pathway. When it was brought to my attention that Wastewater Treatment Plants were a known source of direct microplastic release, I knew that this would be the most advantageous area for me to focus on efforts. I believe its better for us all to focus on stopping the flow before trying to clean up the mess.
What are your career aspirations? And, how do you hope to get there and overcome any challenges that may be thrown your way?
I do not have a clear idea about my future career. I aspire to work in a field that inspires and motivates oneself to work – and to work hard. I am passionate about the environment and I believe science is one field that is always growing and making advancements. From what I have been exposed to during my casual research position at Central Queensland Innovation Research Precinct (CQIRP), the research precinct of CQU, I have seen that being a Researcher is one of the most fulfilling jobs available. The scientific advancements made at CQU are making real differences to this world.
What would you say to women around you, who are interested in pursuing a similar career to you?
There are so many women that I work within science that are excelling and loving what they do. Don’t hold yourself back. The opportunities offered at CQU will help you get where you want to be. Study something you are passionate about. If you are passionate, you will excel in whatever you do. I would encourage any women to pursue research if they have an interest in making real-world differences while doing something they care about and can be proud of.