STEMM Profile: Jan Strugnell | Associate Professor and Director | Centre of Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture | James Cook University | Townsville | QLD

Associate Professor Jan Strugnell [Image: J. Strugnell].

“…‘You can’t be what you can’t see’.  It is important that senior female scientists are visible to younger female scientists so they know that careers in science are possible”

LinkedIn: Jan Strugnell

Twitter: @JanStrugnell


Associate Professor Jan Strugnell completed her BSc (Hons) at James Cook University before obtaining her DPhil at Oxford University, UK, funded by a Rhodes Scholarship. During her DPhil she used molecular and fossil evidence to investigate phylogenetic relationships and divergence times within cephalopods (octopus, squids and cuttlefish).

Jan then worked as an post doctoral research fellow at Queen’s University, Belfast, the British Antarctic Survey and Cambridge University UK, where she investigated evolutionary relationships within and between Antarctic and deep-sea octopods. She reported the first dated molecular evidence that deep-sea fauna from other ocean basins originated from Southern Ocean taxa. Jan was also an Associate Professor in the Ecology, Environment and Evolution Department at La Trobe University.

Jan is currently Director of the Centre of Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture at James Cook University. Her current projects include ARC funded research where she employs a range of genomic and proteomic techniques to answer questions about the evolution of marine species. Her laboratory group is investigating population differentiation, recruitment and adaptation in a range of commercially important lobster species. They also work on marine species that are shifting range in response to climate change and are investigating the genetic basis for resilience and susceptibility to temperature stress in abalone. Jan also investigates population and species level molecular evolution in Antarctic and deep-sea taxa in the context of past climatic and geological change.

In her spare time Jan likes to spend time in the marine environment and is a keen diver, snorkeler and surfer.

What do you think is the most important character trait in a successful scientist? 

Persistence. I think a high proportion of success in science is due to persistence. Everyone will suffer set backs along the way and have papers rejected and grants that don’t get funded. It’s always disappointing, but I think being picking yourself up and trying again really pays off.

What inspired you to science? Have you always liked science? What do you love most about science? 

I was inspired to get into marine science by spending every January of school holidays snorkeling at the beach.  Through this I developed a love and wonder of our marine environment from a young age.  What I love most about science is finding out things that no one knows.  It’s exciting!

What one thing can do you feel that all (public and scientists) can do to most help the position of women in (Australian) Science? 

Having equal representation of female and male scientists on panel discussions, at conferences, in radio interviews and the like is really important. If you ask kids to draw a picture of a scientist, most will draw a man! Having greater representation of female scientists in public and scientific events helps change opinions that only men can be scientists and provides important role models for young women scientists.

What is one thing you would change to improve the gender balance in senior ranks of scientists? 

I think having equal gender representation on interview panels is really important to improve the gender balance in senior ranks.  I think the SAGE initiative will be great in helping universities and research institutes look closely at gender equity in their organisations, identify problems and take steps to improve things.

How do we keep more females engaged in scientific careers? How do we retain women? 

I believe in the saying that ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’.  It is important that senior women scientists are visible to younger women scientists so they know that careers in science are possible. I organized a wikibomb to raise the profile of women in Antarctic science so that young women Antarctic scientists have visible role models.

Leave a Reply