Super smart and she’s just starting

January 12, 2018

Eleanor Denson at her Bachelor of Science (Honours) graduation.

ELEANOR Denson is so intelligent just keeping up with her achievements requires a detailed manual and a science dictionary to fully appreciate what she is doing.

She left Echuca four years ago as Dux of Echuca College with a score of 98.6 and has since seized amazing opportunities and delivered incredible results.

Eleanor completed her Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne majoring in Civil Engineering in 2016 with first class honours while immersing herself in everything and anything science related. Having discovered an interest in climate change after a field trip to New Zealand, Eleanor completed her Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Geography with a major focus in paleoclimatology, the study of past climates – and naturally she finished as one of two valedictorians for the faculty.

Last year, Eleanor Denson was selected as a Laureate of the Embassy of France “Nicolas Baudin” mobility program for a research internship in paleoclimatology at the Laboratoire des sciences du climat et de l’environnement in Gif-sur-Yvette. The program allowed Eleanor to travel to Paris in May where she conducted experiments for her honours research project in climate science.

“Along with some of my professors, I travelled throughout the south of France to study deposits within some caves looking for new samples which are used to obtain records reconstructing past climates. We wanted to make sure we could check and prove the data as well as possible,” she said.

"I tested out a temperature proxy which could result in an incredibly valuable dateable 500,000 year temperature record.

“These records then allow scientists to better understand and accurately predict climate change.

"I’m interested in paleoclimatology because I think better understanding the climate system will help us be better prepared for the future as the climate changes.”

While on the other side of the world, Eleanor travelled to Tuscany, Italy where she visited the Corchia Cave to analyse a sample of a calcite crystal that had grown in a pool of water within the cave over the past million years.

Not wasting the opportunity, the young scientist completed a range of paleoclimatology analytical tests. Using cutting-edge laser technology she surveyed the cave and created a 3D image of the five-million-year-old cave. She also waded into icy cold water to measure its depth and spending four motionless hours counting the drips falling from a stalactite.

Eleanor’s research was funded through the University of Melbourne’s JJ Wood Memorial Scholarship which she received due to her outstanding undergraduate results.

Throughout her Science education, Eleanor has noticed the gender gap across studying science fields. Intertwining extra-curricular activities into her hectic schedule, she has dedicated herself to encourage more women into science careers.

“I have been involved in a couple of groups, the first being Robogals which runs workshops for female students aiming to encourage them to consider a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) areas,” she said.

“I’ve acted as a mentor on a week-long Spark Engineering camp which is about empowering high school students who may not have otherwise considered university and helping them realise their potential and the opportunities available to them.

“I am really passionate about both of these causes.

“I would encourage everyone at high school to really consider university options, to study maths and consider a STEM career, particularly girls.

“There is no real reason why you can’t do it if you are interested.”

The 22-year-old is now planning masters in civil engineering, is considering a PhD and has also developed a fascination with hydraulics.

Clearly the Eleanor Denson story is just beginning.

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