Dr Sharon Hook Environmental Toxicology Expert
"I work with the ocean because it's vast and unknown and filled with really different, wonderful creatures" Dr Sharon Hook
As a kid
Growing up Sharon Hook was a kid who was always outside. She absolutely loved animals, and still does. As she got older, she knew that she wanted a job that would help to “save the world” and make a real difference.
Sharon was inspired by Rachel Carson, a marine biologist and ecologist, who wrote a book called “A silent spring” about the impacts of DDT (a powerful and environmentally disastrous insecticide) on birds. Rachel Carson is widely credited with having started the environmental movement and was from the same city as Sharon, Pittsburgh, USA.
Pittsburgh was a steel town and had experienced high levels of pollution in the past. Sharon grew up very interested in pollution and water quality as a result.
In high school Sharon studied and loved advanced biology, she planned to be a doctor. What she didn’t realise was that there were a wealth of other fascinating STEM roles that would help her to achieve her dreams.
University and Beyond
It took some time for her to “put the pieces together”, as she says, but once she was at university Sharon learned about research roles and has been doing that ever since. Sharon has a B.A. in Biological Sciences from Smith College (MA, USA) and a Ph.D. in Coastal Oceanography from Stony Brook University (NY, USA).
“I work with pollution with the idea of helping people and improving the environment (and ideally, doing both at the same time). I work with the ocean because it's vast and unknown and filled with really different, wonderful creatures”.
One of her proudest achievements was leading a group of people to measure environmental impact from oil spills which transformed Australia's oil spill response policies.
Sharon’s choice of career has given her the chance to travel and to meet people from all over the world which has been incredible. But if she had to change anything she said that she would ask for help more often:
“I haven't asked for help often enough - and I've learned that people like being asked for help occasionally - it makes them feel like you value their input”
Today Sharon is a research scientist at CSIRO and loves it because there is always a new challenge or a new idea to be working on. Her aim is to work towards clean environment capable of supporting everyone on earth!
Collecting sediment (the “muck” that mangroves live in) for some of the our experiments, Sharon got stuck, and had to lay on my belly to get out.
Sharon’s advice to anyone who is interested in a career in STEM is:
“Learn as much as you can about as many different things as possible - most of us are really cross disciplinary these days. And learn to write effectively - being able to clearly and efficiently communicate your ideas will give you a huge advantage”.