Who is Macinley Butson?
Macinley became the first ever Australian to win 1st place in the world at the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair in its 68-year history when she was just 16 years of age. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the largest pre-college scientific research event in the world and is considered the Olympics for science. Over the years, she has become an inspirational role model for young Australians, empowering them to achieve greatness by working in the field of science and engineering, and showing others how they can create and give back to the community.
Can you shortly describe a typical day on the job?
As an inventor, science communicator and student, every day looks different! They vary from collaborative ‘inventing sessions’, to visiting schools to run workshops, to pouring over a textbook. One of the benefits of being an inventor is you never stop learning, so this means each day is an exciting opportunity to try something new.
Why did you choose to be an Inventor? What or who inspired you to do so?
I kind of fell into being an inventor as I have always wanted to make a difference in the world around me, and I am also incredibly curious. I started the journey during school, doing research projects and inventing things in my own backyard until eventually it grew beyond that.
Nowadays I choose this path because it means I get to use my creativity and curiosity to help the world, whilst also encouraging others to pursue STEM careers.
What would you say are three key personality aspects or skills that make for Inventor?
- Curiosity – wanting to explore and make exciting discoveries is vital!
- Creativity – the myth that there is no creativity in STEM is completely false. Every day, I use creativity to look at problems differently and come up with new solutions.
- Passion – I think this is true for any career but in the face of failure, passion is incredibly important to keep you going.
What have you learned about yourself through the work that you do?
I have learnt that I am much more resilient than I would have ever thought! Facing failure and difficulties both professional and personal help you to learn to keep going no matter what. Sometimes things go right, but you learn more from when it goes wrong. Whether this be a scientific procedure or communication I have learnt so much about myself, especially how to effectively and positively respond to challenges.
What’s been your best moment while doing your work?
I don’t think there is a singular ‘best moment’ but rather being able to look back and know you have made a difference is fulfilling. Even if it was only one person who you impacted, who you changed or helped – it is worth it.
And a really hard moment?
Being both young and a woman can be hard sometimes. Whether this be fighting the stigma in STEM fields, unconscious bias or imposter syndrome myself – it can become taxing. But I remind and surround myself with encouraging people who see my potential and challenge me to become a better person. These kinds of people are incredibly important, and for them I am forever grateful.
How do you keep going when things get challenging?
When you work incredibly hard to make visions and dreams a reality, sometimes it is easy to lose focus. You become so ingrained in the details, or the shortcomings of a project you forget why you are doing it. Realigning to the original purpose can be incredibly helpful – taking a step back and reminding yourself why you’re working can help to reignite the passion. I find talking to the people you are helping or hear someone’s story is incredibly helpful. So, when I have a conversation with someone my work positively impacts – it reminds me why I do what I do.
Are there any surprising or odd things that people wouldn’t expect if they picked this career?
When people think about inventors, they often imagine the mad scientist alone in a laboratory, with a white coat and fuzzy hair – although this couldn’t be further from the truth. Inventing is more of a team career than individual, and we don’t always wear lab coats. It can come in many forms from coming up with ideas, to research, to development. And inventors exist in all fields from biology to physics to engineering to maths!
Can you share a funny or weird story about something you experienced while working on a project?
Sometimes, the weirdest thoughts cross my mind and a lot of the time I don’t have the chance to stop them before they come out! I remember being at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles on a trip with fellow young scientists, and out of the blue asking if the sun still rose in the east and set in the west! Needless to say, I haven’t lived that down yet...
What advice would you give to young people considering pursuing a career as an Inventor?
Don’t wait! You can be an inventor from your own backyard, just find a topic you are interested about and let your curiosity take over. Do research and see if you can solve a problem. It’s not an overnight process, but you can start now!
Do you want to find out more about Macinley or her work? Go here:
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