The title ‘soil scientist’ isn’t exactly your regular occupation. Dr Gillian Kopittke, however, has made it her business to build her career in soil science from the ground up. By her own admission, her decision to undertake agricultural studies at Corinda State High School during her time there
‘has been the biggest influence in my career path so far. It led me to study agriculture at university and become a soil scientist.’
Gillian arrived at Corinda State High School in 1990, by which time the agricultural program had been a component of the school’s curriculum since its establishment in 1961. From the onset of her secondary education, it was clear Gillian liked to keep herself busy as well as possessing a natural aptitude for practical sciences.
Gillian played the oboe, competed in athletics and played basketball as well as achieving a slew of subject awards, athletics awards and academic excellence awards, amongst other endeavours. Gillian well and truly tried everything, and says that she ‘chose' Corinda because of its excellent music program, its good reputation and the range of subjects available.
“It was great to sample these different subjects in Year 8 to discover what I liked, taking classes ranging from Home Economics to German, Woodwork to Music, and Agriculture to History. (It was a big surprise to me to find I was good at Metalwork and had topped the class!). From being able to try out all these subjects, I also discovered that the animal husbandry and agriculture subjects were fascinating and I wanted to learn more. Plus, due to a Queensland government loophole, I got a free bus pass if I studied agriculture. So that was my decision made.”
Gillian excelled in her agricultural studies, however she had no idea that it was to become the basis of the very successful and well-deserved career she enjoys today. Gillian went on to complete her undergraduate studies at The University of Queensland, which led to Environmental Scientist jobs working on mine sites and contaminated land projects in Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
Fast-forward to present day and Gillian now owns her own company, where she applies her hard-earned soil science skills to assessing and remediating contaminated sites. She is the immediate Past President of Soil Science Australia (Queensland Branch) and is a well-respected scientist whose skills in soil science are nationally acknowledged.
Gillian has since returned to Corinda State High School, where she says that she
‘is really impressed that the school was using its farm for the general public to access and to learn about food production in an urban setting.’
‘I think the school has a fantastic facility that can be used to show the links between agriculture and human health, between the soil and biological / physical / chemical processes, and between food production and survival. This is one that should be promoted widely as a great strength of the school.’