It was the wicked problems facing the world that attracted Miriam McCormack to study agriculture in the first place, and now she gets immense satisfaction from playing a role in research into food security in developing countries.
Miriam, who graduated with Honours in Agricultural Science from the University of Tasmania in 2015, is now a Research Program Officer in the Social Science and Economics Cluster at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).
Her day-to-day role involves managing international research for development projects in social science research, agricultural extension, gender and livelihoods.
Miriam says the best part about the job is the opportunity to travel and meet new people.
“Last year I went on four international trips to Indonesia, India, PNG and Pakistan, and two or three interstate trips. This year I will do about the same. It is a great time in my life to be doing lots of frequent travel and it is also great making lots of connections,” Miriam said.
“I think the most interesting and exciting experiences I’ve had have been when I’ve been out of Canberra and meeting lots of different people from completely different backgrounds and different interests.
It is so interesting hearing different perspectives on agriculture and what it means to be a farmer in Papua New Guinea or what it means to work with mango producers in the Philippines. Those are the really interesting and exciting connections for me.
“I think I’ve almost met someone from every Australian university in the last 18 months, so that has been a real highlight for me as well.”
Miriam has been interested in international work for a long time and cleverly incorporated this into her studies at the University of Tasmania. In her Honours year she worked on an international research project, which gave her the opportunity to travel to Vietnam.
“I was doing honours as part of an ACIAR project that was looking at the scale out and knowledge transfer of technologies among smallholder beef farmers.
“This involved mapping the social connections between farmers and how knowledge and these new forages were being disseminated in the communities.
We really only scratched the surface with that research, and it really whet my appetite for this kind of work. It was incredible, a great experience and I learnt so much on that trip that I use still when I travel for ACIAR.
Miriam has always had a desire to find a career that involved frequent travel,
“I think since I was a little girl I’ve been keen to see the world, and I always knew that I could and would want to work in an international setting.
“I’ve also been really interested in food production and food systems, so for me international agriculture research and development was quite a natural transition to bring those two things together, but it took me a while to work that out.”
Miriam says she really values the skills she learned during her degree.
“Surprisingly it is not the specific technical knowledge that I use most of the time, mostly I use critical thinking and being able to read and critique scientific writing, speaking, listening and comprehension.
“Those are actually the most important skills because you can always learn technical things if you have a really good strong foundation and I think UTAS really gave me that.”
In agriculture there are so many different roles for so many different skillsets, and if you’re interested in food and food production, if you are interested in people, plants, animals, the natural environment, or working internationally, then agriculture is an option for you.
The University of Tasmania offers two undergraduate bachelor degrees in agriculture. A four-year Bachelor of Agricultural Science and a three-year Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture and Business). There is also a two-year Associate Degree in Agribusiness that can deliver stand-alone qualifications or act as a pathway to a Bachelor degree.