Snowy Mountains Grammar School Alumna (Class of 2001, Dumolo House), Katherine Booker was one of SMGS’ first-ever students when the school commenced operations in 1996, she was also the 2001 School Captain.
With an interest in STEM subjects and a passion for renewable energy research, Katherine went on to complete a BSc from the University of Newcastle and then a PhD in Chemistry. After completing her studies, she accepted a position with the Australian National University where she completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Solar Cell Technology research.
Katherine says that it was a combination of the then SMGS Physics and Chemistry teacher, Mr Merv Jones, and her lab partners who helped to nurture her interest in the STEM pathway and says that SMGS’ focus on outdoor activities, music and community, as well as academics, also really helped her to be a more well-rounded individual.
Of Katherine’s time at SMGS, English Teacher, Mrs Anne Jones said, “there was nothing Kate couldn’t do!”. This sentiment was echoed by many of the teaching staff who taught Katherine.
Continue reading about Katherine’s journey in our interview below:
- What tertiary education path did you follow after you graduated from SMGS?
After leaving SMGS I went to the University of Newcastle and completed a science degree (BSc) and then continued in science research through an Honours project and a PhD (Chemistry). I always really liked the lab-based research side of things, so doing a PhD made sense to me even though it was a pretty big commitment.
- How did you become interested in that pathway?
I always leaned towards STEM subjects at school and we had a great Physics and Chemistry teacher at the time (Mr Jones) who helped me to stay interested and motivated through to the end of Year 12. Plus, I had a good lab partner.
- What is your current occupation, organisation, position and tenure?
Since completing my studies, I have been employed at the Australian National University in Canberra (nine years now!). I have been employed on a few different projects and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in that time, but the projects and fellowship have all been related to solar cell technology research, specifically in chemical engineering aspects.
- What is your biggest source of motivation for your career and life pursuits?
Certainly my biggest career motivation has been focusing on renewable energy and (trying!) to help make it better. I feel that the work we do in this area is important and that keeps me interested. The ANU is also full of such impressive researchers in this area who are having an impact on a global scale and who I am lucky enough to work with every day. Outside of work, family is a big motivator. With two little ones, we spend a lot of time on outdoor pursuits and hopefully teaching them to love and appreciate our special region as much as we do.
- What are some of your most memorable moments from your time at SMGS?
Some of my most memorable times definitely came from the Duke of Edinburgh hikes! We explored some amazing areas in the mountains and on the coast, honed our hot chocolate-making skills and were never without a bit of excitement (getting lost, lightning storms, impromptu campsites, “shortcuts” (thanks, Mr Moolman!) etc.).
- How did your time at SMGS help you in your journey?
SMGS was, and I’m sure still is, a totally unique learning experience. Being such a small school (only seventeen students when I started!) meant that everyone was just thrown in together and had to learn to make it work. We had to work together as a really small community and figure things out as we went along, which I think taught all of us some valuable skills. The focus on outdoor activities, music and community as well as academics also really helped me to be a more rounded individual.
- What programs and co-curricular opportunities did you participate in?
As I said, Duke of Ed. was a big thing and included social service aspects as well as the hikes. I was in the band for most of my time and was very involved in rowing in my last couple of years there. The touch football comp used to be a big thing – there was a teachers’ team as well as student teams in the Jindabyne competition (anyone remember Shepherds, Sheep and Lambs?). And of course, the skiing…
- What advice would you give to students who are beginning their HSC journey and starting to think about their future after they graduate?
The future is surprising! I think there are very few people who know exactly who they want to be and what they want to do when they are just starting out on their HSC journey. If you concentrate on what you like doing (not necessarily just what you are good at) I think you give yourself the best chance of finding your way into something that fits.
- What does it mean to you to be a part of the SMGS Alumni/Old Scholars Community?
SMGS was such a big part of my life. And it still is, through the friends that I still have and the connection that it gave me with the Snowy Mountains region. Having been there from the very first day the school opened, it’s a pretty special thing to be able to stay a part of the community and watch the school continually grow and evolve.
Mrs Anne Jones passed along Katherine’s School Captains Report from 2001 which can be read below.
Are you a Snowy Mountains Grammar School Alumni or Old Scholar? We would love to hear from you!
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