Women in Science
Dr Giulia Ghedini, Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences
If science is your aspiration, embrace it and enjoy the journey, says Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) winner, Dr Giulia Ghedini, a Research Fellow in the Monash School of Biological Sciences. Her advice to women interested in science:
“There is always a lot of uncertainty in this type of career but if you take it step-by-step it can be a rewarding journey. Having mentors and supervisors that support you is fundamental. I study how ecological communities function as a whole by measuring how much resources they consume and produce, and looking at how external factors such as global warming, alter these processes. My work aims to clarify how environmental change will impact the fundamental processes of food consumption and oxygen production in natural communities. With this knowledge we can better forecast ecological change and implement plans to minimise drastic changes. Sometimes I worry about being able to reach the standards that will allow me to be a successful researcher. It is a continuous challenge but I will tackle it with the good support of mentors and hard work.”
Moira O’Bryan, Professor, Head of Monash School of Biological Sciences, Head of the Male Infertility and Germ Cell Biology Laboratory
Professor Moira O’Bryan knew at age 14 that she wanted to do a PhD in biochemistry. She has always been fascinated by science and the natural world.
“One of the biggest joys is to know that you are the first person to know something,” says Professor O’Bryan, who heads the Monash School of Biological Sciences, and leads the Male Infertility and Germ Cell Biology Laboratory. Her research focuses on the study of sperm development and the causes of human male infertility.
“The hardest part of my journey would have been my mid-career stage in my mid-30s,” says Professor O’Bryan.
“I was independent – but the entire lab depended on me. If I wasn’t doing it – it stopped. It was a long daily grind. I remember thinking, is this what I want to be doing for the rest of my life? And then something happened, - I started to gain recognition from my field, there was a sense of ‘she knows what she’s talking about’, ‘it’s her work, not the head of the department’s or anyone else’s’. My advice to aspiring women scientists is find a good mentor, make sure you have a support group, and be proactive in putting yourself forward for promotions. Put yourself out there – volunteer for things, take part in conferences, and network. Push yourself just that little harder.”
Meera Parish, Associate Professor, Monash School of Physics and Astronomy
My advice to anyone considering a STEM career or STEM study is to focus on what really interests you, says Associate Professor Meera Parish, from the Monash School of Physics and Astronomy. Associate Professor Parish is a theoretical physicist who aims to understand and mathematically describe the behaviour of many interacting quantum particles such as atoms and electrons. For instance, collections of particles can exhibit exotic phenomena such as superfluidity and superconductivity.
“My work expands our knowledge of quantum physics and has the potential to underpin a new generation of electronic devices in the future,” she says. “At the moment, I think it is more important than ever to invest in STEM education, because we need to find ways to meet the challenges posed by a changing climate and our insatiable demand for energy. Indeed, I am currently part of an ARC Centre of Excellence on Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies, which ultimately aims to make computers more energy efficient.”
Dr Boon Mian Teo, Lecturer, Monash School of Chemistry
Monash School of Chemistry lecturer Dr Boon Mian Teo, Lecturer, would like to see more females working in the field of physical chemistry and becoming role models for the younger (future) generation in STEM.
“To all the females who want to get into a career in STEM: first of all, do what interests you, get involved in it and ask questions,” she says.
“Be bold and don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done. Creativity is a key ingredient for success in STEM. I hope to inspire more female students to do research in physical chemistry.” Dr Boon’s research focuses on ultrasound. “Sound plays a crucial role in how we experience the world around us,” she says.
“The physics of acoustics are inherently important and of great interest to us. Ultrasound frequency is above the threshold of our human hearing, however its impacts are widespread and it has several applications all around us. By tuning the acoustic frequency, we can use sound in a broad range of applications from making chemical reactions go faster, to baby scans and as a therapeutic drug delivery tool.” Dr Boon is passionate about science and educating the next generation of scientists to make the world a better place.
Julie Arblaster, Associate Professor, Monash School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment
Associate Professor Julie Arblaster Monash School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment would like to see more girls taking up STEM subjects, and for everyone to be excited about science and the opportunities it brings.
Her advice to women who aspire to a career or study in STEM is to keep searching until they find something they love to do and an environment that supports them to do it.
“My work involves using computer models to simulate the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean: how they move, interact and may change in the future as a result of fossil fuel emissions,” says Professor Arblaster.
“I hope the knowledge my area of research has gained since we first discovered greenhouse gases trapped heat (over 100 years ago!) will be used to inform policy decisions about climate change. We’ve been hoping that for many years now, but slow progress is better than none.”
Dr Carly Cook, Lecturer, Monash School of Biological Sciences
Dr Carly Cook is lecturer at the Monash School of Biological Sciences. A conservation scientist her research is focused around improving the use of science in environmental management decisions.“My advice to a female who aspires to a career in Science or Science study is to embrace maths because it’s central to everything we do in Science and can be your greatest tool,” says Dr Cook.
“But most importantly, do what inspires you, because that’s how you’ll remain motivated during the difficult times in your career. I try to understand the level of integration of science in decision-making, the barriers to better integration and to design decision support tools that can facilitate the uptake of science. I hope my research makes the world a better place by giving decision makers the tools to make more successful management decisions, and when unsuccessful, to learn from their actions to improve their effectiveness in the future. Dr Cook’s research has revealed that 1,500 protected areas in Australia have had their protection reduced or removed all together over the past 20 years. “And we now have a shameful record in clearing native vegetation,” she says. “I would love to understand how we can get the public engaged with conservation again, so they can pressure governments to reinstate or increase protections for biodiversity.”
Dr Francine Marques, Senior Lecturer School of Biological Sciences
Dr Marques has an impressive record in researching high blood pressure. She heads the Monash Hypertension Research Laboratory and is a National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow. Her advice to aspiring female scientists is to have a plan.
“Set EPIC (elevating, practical, impactful and clear) goals and make them happen,” she says. Align yourself with the right people: find empowering mentors, and people who share your vision.”Dr Marques’ research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of blood pressure regulation.
“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the world, and high blood pressure is one of the main contributors,” says Dr Marques.
“I hope my research can lead to earlier identification and prevention of the development of high blood pressure.”
Dr Yona Nebel-Jacobsen, Research Fellow, School of Atmosphere and Environment
Dr Yona Nebel-Jacobsen, is Research Fellow, at the School of Atmosphere and Environment (EAE). She is an isotope geochemist and oversees a clean laboratory facility at EAE, the Isotopia Lab.
“My advice to aspiring female scientists is don’t let anyone discourage you from your dream,” she says. “I work with researchers and students, supporting their research and learning. My research interests are around the Early Earth. I hope to make the world a better place not only by what I do but by how I do it. I try to create a safe and open work environment for everyone. I am not only engaged in gender equity by chairing the school's committee but am also an ambassador for mental health first aid and trained in suicide alertness. These 'non-academic' skills are important for creating a productive, safe work environment.”
Dr Victoria Blair, Discovery Early Career Research Fellow (DECRA), Monash School of Chemistry
Change only happens with momentum, according to Dr Victoria Blair, a Discovery Early Career Research Fellow (DECRA) at the Monash School of Chemistry.
“My advice to women aspiring to a career or study in Science is to never underestimate yourself,” says Dr Blair.
“I work in chemistry research, developing new multi-metallic systems capable of functionalising small molecules. I like to think of what I do as designing new and better multi-functional tools that can be used for lots of jobs. I'm one more woman in science, inspiring girls to pursue a scientific career and believe in themselves.”