Young Female Scientist Hopes to Create Energy Efficient Biofuel from Bacteria
by Emma Nobel (ABC Central Victoria News) Environmental microbiologist and science champion Marianne Haines hopes her work converting bacteria into biofuel will lead to more sustainable outcomes, and more women studying science at the postgraduate level.
Growing up in regional Victoria, the former boot camp leader was inspired to make a career change after returning to university.
Now, Ms Haines will research how to generate renewable, carbon-neutral energy from bacteria, fungi and algae when she undertakes her PhD in Canada this year.
“What I’m looking at in the University of Calgary is how we can turn photosynthetic microorganisms, like algae and bacteria, into fuel like methane,” Ms Haines said.
Researchers at the University of Calgary are already turning algae and bacteria into biofuel, but the 24-year-old said her PhD would focus on making the process even more efficient.
Growing up on her parent’s sheep farm just outside Nagambie in northern Victoria, the La Trobe University Honours graduate was never drawn to science during high school.
“I was interested in sport and fitness and design,” she said.
It was after listening to an “amazing and incredible” lecture from one of her teachers that she decided to take things further.
“I was kind of nudging the students next to me, saying ‘Why aren’t you more excited about this? Do you not fully comprehend what he’s saying?'” Ms Haines said.
The lecture was a game changer for Ms Haines, who then decided to major in microbiology and biochemistry.
“Thinking back on it, I thought ‘Who are my female role models in science?’, and the fact that I would have to go out and look for them is kind of disheartening,” she said.
After not being a fan of science at school, Ms Haines wants to see science education improved for younger people, so the next generation can be taught about science the same way her generation was taught about the importance of sustainability.
“I think the next success could be science, so an early education beyond bicarb soda and vinegar in a papier mache volcano,” she said.
“We need to go beyond that and teach more about those career pathways and hopefully develop that passion.” READ MORE