Q&A with Karina Soukos
UWA Bachelor of Science graduate (2012)
Since graduating from UWA in 2012, I have been fortunate to experience working in a variety of labs, ranging from clinical research to environmental chemistry. I now work as an emergency response chemist for ChemCentre where I perform a key role in resolving incidents involving hazardous materials across Western Australia.
I’m part of a 24/7 on-call team that could be deployed anywhere within WA at a moment’s notice to perform onsite chemical analysis and provide chemical advice to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES). My team responds to all sorts of chemical incidents that can range from suspicious substances at airports, to accidental mixing of chemicals, to chemical spills on the side of the road.
What aspects of working in science do you most enjoy?
I’m passionate about training people and helping them develop confidence and skills for success. In the workplace, I have carved out my position in the Emergency Response team as the training coordinator, meaning I’m responsible for onboarding and upskilling new recruits to the team, and developing and implementing training programs with partner organisations such as DFES. I believe providing mentoring opportunities and empowering individuals to continually improve helps me help others make a difference in the world.
What’s the most interesting aspect of your job?
Being among the first responders to emergency situations, I can genuinely say that no two days are ever the same! Never knowing what the day will bring, where I may be called to, what analysis and skills the situation may require or when I may be called out are all thrilling aspects that keep me excited every day I turn up to work.
Reflecting on your time at UWA, what experiences were most important for your development?
Looking back, going to university was an incredible experience. I perhaps didn’t realise it at the time, but I am thankful for the skills, abilities and friendships I developed, not just in the classroom but from the university experience as a whole. Living university life to the fullest by joining clubs and mastering my own time management by juggling university, social life, study and part-time work to achieve a balanced lifestyle are some of the biggest takeaways I have from that time.
The professional network I built at UWA led me to land my first professional job after graduating from university, which in turn has allowed me to further develop my skills and direct me to where I am today. The BSc I earned at UWA involved lots of hands-on laboratory time, which is directly relevant to what I do as a chemist, and refined my scientific and critical thinking skills that I use every day in my role at ChemCentre.