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Launching dynamic careers for women in STEM

There’s no better place to bring your 21st century passions to life than Charles Darwin University (CDU), a top 100 university in the (Asia Pacific 2019) and Australia’s number one university full-time employment for postgraduate students (Good Universities Guide 2022).

While accolades prove credibility, happy graduates are testament to the fact that a world-class student experience awaits in the Northern Territory’s unhurried capital. Every learner leaves primed to lead in a world of constant change. While each goes on to achieve diverse milestones, all credit their success to the CDU way: a rare combination of comprehensive lessons, expert guidance, experiential opportunities, and an emphasis on positive global change.

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Where international students are rewarded for excellence and welcomed with open arms

Born and raised in Kandy, Sri Lanka, Shehani Kaushika Rajapaksha grew up in a family that advocates passion. Her mother believed the key to unlocking success was a life well lived and a profession well relished. For Shehani, that meant going all the way with her interest in mathematics and science — specifically with a degree in engineering.

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After completing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, she considered her options. While staying in Sri Lanka and serving as a Calibration Officer at Sri Lankan Airlines was tempting for the sake of comfort, love encouraged her to broaden her horizons. Her college sweetheart was about to travel back to Australia, and for Shehani, staying behind was not an option.

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Her career with Sri Lankan Airlines helped her realise there was no better way to enter the traditionally male-dominated industry of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) –– with confidence –– than with a well-respected degree. Her many years of academic excellence translated to receiving offers from some of the country’s most prominent universities, but there wasn’t anything quite like CDU. They offered far more than just an offer of study to Shehani.

She received the CDU Global Excellence Award Scholarship, an accomplishment reserved for some of the brightest minds in the world –– and her journey to achieving engineering excellence began.

This is what a regular week looked like for her as a Master of Engineering student:

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After a full week of academic enrichment, Shehani found the best way to unwind is to give back — she does so over the week as well, whenever she can. Most of her work was done as a proud member of Darwin Together as well as the Australian Red Cross. Shehani was also heavily involved with CDU Inspired NT. Together, volunteers in the Science Outreach programme would deliver robotics workshops for children between the ages of eight and 13. “We want the younger generation to adjust to STEM,” she explains.

The rest of her weekends are reserved for downtime or exploration with her now-husband. Thankfully, in Darwin, there is plenty to see and do.

SATURDAy and sunday

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Automotive design, Wheel, Arm, Photograph, Toy, Tire, Lego

Shehani’s Fridays usually consist of fine-tuning her skills in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) Systems. After her lecture, she would spend a couple of hours going through materials from her professor — quick revision ensures she never misses a beat.

Once she puts the books aside, Shehani enjoys perks reserved for CDU’s international students. The university provides her with tips to boost her employability, workshops to make the most of her programme, and loads of opportunities for engagement. “Alongside other international students, I’ve discovered I’m a good painter!” she enthuses.

“Not too long ago, there was even a Deepavali function. The Sri Lankan community hosts numerous events as well. Most importantly, CDU’s CV building workshop helped me rework my CV from four pages to just one. Finally, through on-campus job fairs, I landed the internship that eventually became my part-time job.”

Just a few months away from graduation, Shehani will soon begin a full-time position at Lucid Consulting Australia as a graduate engineer.


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Midweek lectures typically cover the theoretical basics of Mechanical Engineering: Applied Fluid Mechanics, Control Engineering, Engines and Turbomachinery, and Dynamics of Engineering Systems, and more.

While Shehani enjoys building on her soft skills, nothing places her in her element, like a few hours exploring the intricacies of STEM. On some days, practical sessions take the place of lectures on her schedule — allowing her to put knowledge into practice.

It’s a lot to take in, but she loves every minute of it. When classes are over, she usually heads to a nearby cafe or the library — her favourite — to complete assignments, study for exams or prepare for upcoming tutorials.

“The CDU library is a comfortable space,” she says. “They are open until midnight, so sometimes I park myself there all day.”

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

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For Shehani, the week would start with a comprehensive, three-hour lecture — frequently, exploring Project Management Risk and Reliability. As a CDU student, she was offered many opportunities to select courses from different subjects. “Who knows? Maybe I’ll be a manager in the field of engineering one day, hence the importance of an interdisciplinary course structure.”

These business-focused courses are conducted at CDU’s Casuarina campus. Once classes end, Shehani would make her way to Lucid Consulting Australia, where her HVAC Systems competencies got her access to an internship that quickly evolved into a part-time job.


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Even the markets are filled with several ingredients that remind her of Sri Lanka — such as ripe papayas, sinful sugar cane, rare spices, and everything else she could ever need to prepare a week’s worth of meals that connect her to home.  To those who say there’s no place better than home, Darwin has enough buzz to dispel this myth.

Socialising is important too. Shehani has made several lifelong friends in Darwin, and they love to try new cuisines. “If you love food, this is the place for you,” she says. When her friends aren’t bringing her to new spots, Shehani and her husband make their rounds around town to source what they have yet to try and take snapshots of their tasty findings.

“Additionally, there are countless shopping outlets, beautiful botanical gardens, sunset cruises and stunning views that can only be found in Darwin,” she says.

International students love CDU because they know their university cares for them. When the pandemic hit Australia, the university supported the community-led Kindness Shake initiative that helps international students, migrants, refugees and temporary visa holders who are experiencing financial difficulties.

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An enriching adventure awaits at Charles Darwin University.

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