STEMM PROFILE: Dr Li-Ann Leow, PhD | Postdoctoral Fellow in Neuroscience | University of Queensland | Brisbane | QLD

Dr Li-Ann Leow

“…you can always surprise yourself with how strong you are”

Dr Li-Ann Leow is a post-doctoral research fellow in the field of cognitive neuroscience at the Centre for Sensorimotor Performance, at the University of Queensland, with expertise in motor control, motor learning and the dopaminergic reward system. Before working at UQ, she relocated from the University of Western Australia, where she completed her PhD, to the University of Western Ontario (all the way in Canada) at the Brain and Mind Institute, Western University (University of Western Ontario).

Li-Ann is passionate about equity and diversity. She started a gender equity interest group at the University of Queensland in June 2015 to raise awareness on important issues which continue to act as roadblocks to gender equity, and to provide a knowledge-sharing venue to help members (particularly early-career academics) acquire strategies for successful career advancement.

How do you cope with self-doubt? How do you cope with imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome has always been a part of me. I have an anxious temperament, which means that lots of things terrify me. But I just do these terrifying things anyway—and the risks I’ve taken often pay off.

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

Organizations need to stem the flow of the leaky pipeline in junior ranks—in Australia, the leaky pipeline starts post PhD – we need to stop the leak BEFORE then! 

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

Making implicit bias training as mandatory as occupational health and safety training would have a huge impact. Implicit biases = death by a thousand cuts. The cumulative impact of implicit bias is enormous. For an insightful model of this, see

If you have had a career disruption, how did you manage to stay productive during this time – what helped you the most?

I’m just about to have a major career disruption (I’m going to have my first child in 1.5 months). My strategy is to explicitly state to my workplace what I need to stay competitive, and work with them cooperatively to accomplish this.

What have you learnt during your career to increase your resilience?

That you can always surprise yourself with how strong you are.

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