Australia’s Women in STEMM

All around Australia, there are remarkable women in science investigating dark matter, studying volcanoes, discovering new species, developing disease treatments, designing better solar panels, and understanding the latest nanotechnology and personalised medicine. There are also remarkable women developing science and health policies, administering research grants, commercialising prototypes, nailing patent law and teaching the next generation of scientists. To honour the many women in STEMM around Australia, we regularly post a new STEMM profile – so enjoy getting to know some of Australia’s outstanding women and their colleagues in our vibrant STEMM ecosystem from a range of disciplines, career stages, professions and locations!


STEMM PROFILE: Sarah George | Founder | Heartfelt Tech | Melbourne | VIC

“If the people around you won’t let you shine, don’t hide your light. Find better people”

dc3a1valos-salas_stemm.jpgSTEMM PROFILE: Dr Mercedes Dávalos-Salas, PhD | Postdoctoral Research Fellow | Oncogenic Transcription Laboratory | Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute| School of Cancer Medicine | La Trobe University | Melbourne | VIC

“Set a healthy personal/work balance. Find a mentor and expand your network”

Marianne PesoSTEMM PROFILE: Marianne Peso | Centre Manager & Industry Liaison Officer | ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Fruit Fly Biosecurity Innovation | Macquarie University | Sydney | NSW

“We need to … bridge communication gaps, recognise how structural incentives limit people’s willingness to collaborate outside of their sector, and create more opportunities for people to move between academia, industry and government”

I’d wanted to do a PhD for a long time, and had to choose between being an older PhD student or an older mother; the kids came first!”

SSamantha Hood - by Patrick SelfTEMM PROFILE: Samantha Hood | PhD Student | Physics | University of Queensland | Brisbane | QLD

“We need diversity in our role models to inspire all future students in STEMM”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASTEMM PROFILE: Squadron Leader Marija Jovanovich | Test Pilot | Royal Australian Air Force | Adelaide | SA

“Early in my career, I tried to hide my intellectual bend. When I finally stopped, I became a much better operator and leader”

high res liz credit Carmen Spiers. 2012STEMM PROFILE: Professor Liz Harry | Director of the ithree Institute and Professor of Biology | University of Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

“It is a great time to be a scientist because the rules about what will be considered valuable research are changing and now we can look at our work in terms of real impact”

AnnabellaNewstonHS-CSTEMM PROFILE: Dr Annabella Newton, PhD | Patent and Trade Marks Attorney | Phillips Ormonde Fitzpatrick | Melbourne | VIC

“Network as much as you can, meet as many people as possible, and make the effort to build a network of contacts as this will help you as much as your technical skills”

kay-lathamSTEMM PROFILE: Professor Kay Latham | Inorganic and Materials Chemistry | RMIT University | Melbourne | VIC

“So, I would ask that each time we are faced with a decision…just stop for a moment and question our decision – is it gendered?”

katedevittsep2015STEMM Profile: Dr Kate Devitt | Research Associate | Queensland University of Technology | Brisbane | QLD 

“I have reinvented myself multiple times to take advantage of opportunities around me”

samia_1STEMM Profile: Dr Samia Elfekih | Research Scientist | CSIRO Health and Biosecurity Business Unit | CSIRO | Canberra | ACT 

“I now embrace failure as an expected part of the process of building a career. If we don’t fail, it means we are not aiming high enough!”

sue-barrellSTEMM PROFILE: Dr Sue Barrell, FTSE | Deputy Director, Observations and Infrastructure | Bureau of Meteorology | Australian Government | Melbourne | VIC

“…a PhD is more about how you do research than what research you do. The skills I learnt – asking questions, understanding principles, gathering and analysing evidence, developing and testing theories, writing well and persuasively, thinking outside the box, have proved invaluable throughout my career…”

angela-fergusonSTEMM PROFILE: Angela Ferguson | Group Managing Director – Asia-Pacific | ThoughtWorks | Melbourne | VIC

“Even though the little voice is still there shouting ‘fraud’, ‘imposter’ at regular intervals, I’ve realised that I’ve often been able to succeed, even when the voice is loud…”

photo-11STEMM PROFILE: Dr Claire Campbell | Lecturer and Early Career Researcher | College of Arts, Society and Education | James Cook University | Townsville | QLD

“Don’t be afraid to ask for ‘what you need to succeed’…”

staff IDsSTEMM PROFILE: Sze Hwee Ong | PhD Student | Bruce Lefroy Centre | Genetics | Murdoch Childrens Research Institute | Melbourne | VIC

“Life is a learning journey and doing research feels like I am learning something new every day”

Jo 5STEMM Profile: Jocelyn Pennefather (O’Neil) | Associate Professor – now retired | Monash University | Melbourne | VIC

“To me the most important legacy is seeing the successful scientific careers and lives of many of my past students”

MMackay_2STEMM PROFILE: Mary Mackay | PhD Student | University of Tasmania | Hobart | TAS

“… I am grateful to be part of something larger than me, to be able to develop the understanding and build upon it”

Jess Vovers posing with sep funnelSTEMM PROFILE: Jessica (Jess) Vovers | PhD Student | Biochemical Engineering | University of Melbourne | Melbourne | VIC

“When I made my decision to study chemical engineering, it wasn’t because I was inspired by something – I was just good at chemistry and thought I would get a job if I did engineering”

Tracy Seymour - taken by Donna SavigniSTEMM PROFILE: Tracy Seymour | PhD Student | The University of Western Australia | Perth | WA

“I’ve come to accept that things won’t always go to plan and to not worry about the small mishaps”

Jessica AppletonSTEMM PROFILE: Jessica Appleton | PhD Student | Faculty of Health | University of Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

“An unexpected highlight of doing a PhD is meeting so many people from diverse backgrounds”

Melissa - Image courtesy of The University of Western AustraliaSTEMM PROFILE: Melissa Lee | M Phil Graduate | Pure Mathematics | University of Western Australia | Perth | WA

“I am a strong believer that if you work very hard, success will follow”

3 Minute Thesis (3MT) final.STEMM PROFILE: Jen Wood | PhD student | Microbial Ecology | La Trobe University | Melbourne | VIC

“Say ‘Yes’ when opportunity comes along, even if you can’t see how it benefits you immediately”

Deborah Fox - taken by Simon Peter FoxSTEMM PROFILE: Deborah Fox | PhD student | Midwifery, Child and Family health | University of Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

“As a mid-life PhD Candidate, I am … motivated by … older women around the world … enjoying long careers as midwifery academics and clinicians”

Vicki at table on beach_hi res - by Terry BrownSTEMM PROFILE: Victoria (Vicki) Martin | PhD Student | Environmental Social Science and Science Communication | Southern Cross University | Lismore | NSW

“I always knew I wanted to a PhD, but never felt ready. … I realised I just had to make a start on something I am interested in and feel is worthwhile”

SamiraSTEMM PROFILE: Samira Aili | PhD Student | School of Life Sciences | University of Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

“I chose science as I’ve always wanted to be in a profession that help people in some way”

Elizabeth - taken by Matthew Galligan.jpgSTEMM PROFILE: Elizabeth Duguid | Masters of Professional Engineering (Electrical and Electronic) | University of Western Australia | Perth | WA

“I want to be a part of the generation that sees this technology [renewable energy] transition from novelty to norm”

Sophia 1 - by Nicole LakeSTEMM PROFILE: Sophia Frentz | PhD Student | Mitochondrial Research | Department of Paediatrics | University of Melbourne | Murdoch Childrens Research Institute | Melbourne | VIC

“Science is formalized curiosity and I am a curious person. I love chipping away at a problem until it is solved…”

Sandeepa - taken by Megan PrideauxSTEMM PROFILE Sandeepa Kannangara | PhD student | Computer Science and Engineering | University of New South Wales | Sydney | NSW

“I love science because it can explain everything in and around us based on experimental evidence, not just conjecture”

Miss Anna QuaglieriSTEMM Profile: Anna Quaglieri | PhD Student in Statistics | Bioinformatics Division | The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research | The University of Melbourne | Melbourne | VIC 

“Even if you didn’t particularly love Mathematics during high school because you thought it was too abstract. Statistics will make you see the connection between theory and reality thanks to its versatile application to any field”

Amanda Lilleyman releasing bird_Jordan Raymond-MunroSTEMM Profile: Amanda Lilleyman | Phd Student | Charles Darwin University | Darwin | NT

“If you are passionate about what you do for work, it will not be work but an extension of your life. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and opportunities have come my way because of my driven personality”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASTEMM Profile: Clare Weeden | PhD student | Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research | Melbourne | VIC

“Science is an increasingly difficult career choice, but I feel like I would still choose science as I am fulfilled and fascinated by it”

Anna - taken by Anna ZovaroSTEMM Profile: Anna Zovaro | PhD student in Physics | Australian National University | Canberra | ACT

“In my experience, asking ‘stupid’ questions has often led to long and enriching discussions. Being a scientist is all about asking questions, after all”

KLD Phalaborwa - by Katrina DicksonSTEMM Profile: Katrina Dickson | PhD Student | Invasive Animals CRC | University of New England | Armidale | NSW

“I hope to see gender diversity leading to increased systems thinking, creativity and innovation; more motivating and satisfying workplaces; and the capacity to meet the challenges that our planet is currently facing”

Rachel Kelly profile - taken by Rachel KellySTEMM Profile: Rachel Kelly | PhD student | Social Sciences and Fisheries Research | University of Tasmania | Hobart | TAS

“I am excited to progress in my own research and aspire to also become established as a scientist and female role model to young students, taking up from the female scientists who have encouraged and inspired me on my own path”

Leigh - Taken_by_Jennifer_YiuSTEMM Profile: Leigh Nicholson | PhD student in Medical Sciences | University of Sydney |  Sydney | NSW

“People going into research have the idea that if an experiment doesn’t work, it’s always their fault. If I took western blots not working personally I would have no self-esteem left”

Miss Zoe GrantSTEMM Profile: Zoe Grant | PhD student in Biomedicine | The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research | University of Melbourne | Melbourne | VIC

“Everyday in science is a challenge for me, whether it’s talking to new people or in front of people, and everyday I get better”

Amy rabbit - taken by Pablo Garcia DiazSTEMM Profile: Amy Iannella | PhD Student in Bioscience | University of Adelaide | Adelaide | SA

“I love the moment when you have all the data together, you plot it on a graph and suddenly you’re looking at a totally new piece of information that nobody else knows yet”

Annual Report 2013STEMM Profile: Professor Kathryn North AM | Director, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute | David Danks Professor of Child Health Research, University of Melbourne| Melbourne | VIC

“Tell senior staff about your dreams – they might help you achieve them”

Ala Lew-TaborSTEMM PROFILE: Professor Ala Tabor | Senior Principal Research Fellow | The University of Queensland | Brisbane | QLD

“The Harvard Gender bias test is a good test for all and being pro-active on gender equity policies”

Jan_and_crabSTEMM Profile: Assoc. Prof. Jan Strugnell | Ecology, Environment and Evolution | La Trobe University | Melbourne | VIC

“…‘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”

PipSTEMM Profile: Dr Phillippa Taberlay | NHMRC Career Development Fellow | University of Tasmania | Hobart | TAS

“… consider the longer-term impact of career disruption … on track records. The reality is that you may take “only” 6 months leave, but the effects last much longer and are more widespread”

11.07.12 Mary BebawySTEMM Profile: Associate Professor Mary Bebawy | Pharmaceutical Drug Discovery and Cancer | University of Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

“In high school… I had the most amazing science teacher who really made science fascinating and I knew that this was what I wanted to do”

Jenny Davis_CDU Image2016STEMM Profile: Professor Jenny Davis | Freshwater Ecologist | Charles Darwin University | Darwin | NT

“The current paradigm of using single metrics to rank individual researchers favours a very narrow set of scientific attributes and skills, and often (although not always) these attributes are held more by male than female researchers”

DSC03826STEMM PROFILE: Dr Laura McCaughey | Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Research Fellow | University Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

“‘Be the change you want to see’. We are the future of science and we have the ability to change the culture and equality in our workplace by our actions.”

IMG_0274_CHENGSTEMM PROFILE: Dr Eva Cheng | Lecturer, Electrical and Computer Engineering | RMIT University | Melbourne | VIC

“It’s not so much a key piece of advice that has impacted my career, but the honest advice without judgement, in addition to my mentor’s invaluable ability to see situations in ways only someone with years of life and work experience can”

Profile pic_BoagSTEMM PROFILE: Dr Joanne Boag | Senior Manager, Intellectual Property and Commercialisation | Murdoch Childrens Research Institute | Melbourne | VIC

“It is important to let women know that their contribution, female contribution, is important and would be missed if they left”

Lynette Clunies-RossSTEMM PROFILE: Lynette Clunies-Ross, BBus (Computing) | Chief Operating Officer | SAS Australia and New Zealand | Sydney | NSW

“… I would advocate taking the time to practice your craft and build on your mastery before you consider a change in profession or direction”

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

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


mackay-f-labpageSTEMM PROFILE: Professor Fabienne Mackay, PhD | Head, Biomedical Sciences School | University of Melbourne | Melbourne | VIC

“So many large research grants awarded to teams that have not included a single woman as an investigator. Insisting on the inclusion of women as investigators, as part of the eligibility criteria would force future applicants to pay attention to the female talents around them”

1SM_9000cm-crp (3)_copyright granted from Steve Morton, Monash UniversitySTEMM PROFILE: Dr Kaye Morgan | Engineer and Researcher | School of Physics | Monash University | Melbourne | VIC

“… we can all stand up against gender stereotypes, give equal voice to both genders, take equal responsibility for unpaid work in the home and ask for flexible work arrangements”

Liz Bibliography Pic (2)STEMM PROFILE: Professor Elizabeth Sullivan | Public Health Physician and Epidemiologist | University of Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

“… seek out an early career researcher program and mentors, to be open to opportunities for collaboration and networking and to work in an area you are passionate about”

ShaghikSTEMM PROFILE: Dr Shaghik Atakaramians | Postdoctoral Fellow, Photonics & Optical Science | University of Sydney | Sydney | NSW

“There are plenty of hidden opportunities in each challenge. To discover these opportunities one needs to get uncomfortable by embracing change and taking the initiative”

Sally MaleSTEM PROFILE: Dr Sally Male | Engineer and Researcher | University of Western Australia | Perth | WA

“I do not have a mentor because, within the masculine culture of engineering, subconscious bias pervades all women and men.  I do not trust even myself to avoid gendered assumptions”

Sarah Chapman cropSTEMM PROFILE: Sarah Chapman | Science Educator | STEM Hub | Townsville | QLD

“What I love most about science is that it is everywhere and so dynamic. It is a platform that allows me to always keep on learning, which is the best thing you can ask for, constantly challenged and constantly getting to experience that sense of wonder!”

MariaProf1STEMM PROFILE: Professor Maria Garcia de la Banda | Deputy Dean, Faculty of Information Technology | Monash University | Melbourne |VIC

“Communicating the value of research … has been critical for my career both internally (to others in my Faculty and University) and externally (to colleagues and people in industry and government with whom we collaborate)”

IMG_0029_smaller fileSTEMM PROFILE: Wendy Carroll, MBA BE BCom | Head of Health Solutions, Innovation Business Unit at Sanofi | Sydney | NSW

“Build your networks of collaborators and confidantes from the word start. The most successful people realise that they can’t do it all on their own”


STEMM PROFILE: Dr Jodie Rummer | Assistant Professor, ARC DECRA Fellow | James Cook University | Townsville | VIC

“…in this field, we have to be prepared for rejection because there is a lot of it. Laughing about the ridiculous ones with your colleagues helps as well… We all get rejected… it’s how we deal with it (and rather use it to our advantage) that matters the most”

CROPPED-Dr-Angela-DawsonSTEMM PROFILE: Dr Angela Dawson | Public Health Scientist | University of Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

“Develop your ‘brand’ or your unique area of work and build a publishing profile there early on”

ASDielen official

STEMM PROFILE: Dr Anne-Sophie Dielen | OGTR Evaluator, Founder of The League of Remarkable Women in Science | Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) | Canberra | ACT

“Because I heard this time and time again, I internalized the idea that leaving academia was failing. I knew deep down it wasn’t true but it took a long time to overcome the fear…”

Jenny Martin

STEMM PROFILE: Jenny Martin | Professor of Structural Biology and Drug Discovery, Director of the Eskitis Drug Discovery Institute | Griffith University | Brisbane | QLD

“The joy of discovery, the celebrations of achievement and the honour of working with talented young people from around the world” inspires Jenny to achieve

LindySTEMM PROFILE: Lindy Stephens | Global Head of Business Operations | ThoughtWorks | Melbourne | VIC

“…being open to change, and even looking forward to it, helps you to not panic when things don’t go as planned”


Mel and plateSTEMM PROFILE: Dr Melanie Thomson | Microbiologist and Science Communicator | Deakin University | Geelong | VIC

“I overcame … artificial barriers erected by the naysayers, by demonstrating that they were incorrect to assume they could decide my goals for me”

DF0_2477STEMM PROFILE: Roxane Legaie | Senior Bioinformatician | Monash University | Melbourne | VIC

“Even without a clear understanding of what “I wanted to be when I grow up”, I was always driven to achieve, to succeed”


IMG_4886STEMM PROFILE: Professor Sue Carthew | Pro-Vice Chancellor, Faculty of Engineering, Health, Science and the Environment | Charles Darwin University | Darwin | NT

“If you have passion and motivation you will succeed and you will find ways of overcoming hurdles along the way – as long as you also work hard at it”

Linda profileSTEMM PROFILE: Associate Professor Linda Lua | Director, UQ Protein Expression Facility | University of Queensland | Brisbane | QLD

“If a leader genuinely has the best interest in growing and developing others into future leaders, and cares for them and not just what they can do, people will do more than what you ask”

IMG_20150819_100706-1STEMM PROFILE: Dr Fatima El-Assaad | Vice Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow | UNSW Australia | Sydney | NSW

“I would restructure the entrenched patriarchal frameworks within academia and research to enable a fairer trajectory for females”


K Alford Headshot 2015STEMM PROFILE: Dr Kristin Alford | BE Hons (Min Proc), PhD, MMgt (Strategic Foresight) | Director, Science Creativity Education (Sci.C.Ed) Studio | University of South Australia | Adelaide | SA

“My PhD taught me to read widely and follow odd hunches, and the importance of relationships for making change”

DCprofile2015_cropSTEMM Profile: Dr Dana Cordell | Research Principal | Institute for Sustainable Futures | University of Technology Sydney | Sydney

” … maximising influence through research requires a combination of seeking strategic windows of opportunity, using the right communication tools, and targeting the right people”

103 (2)STEMM PROFILE: Dr Rachel Popelka-Filcoff | AINSE Senior Research Fellow | Flinders University | Adelaide| SA

“… I am encouraged and supported by my husband, who does the majority of the childcare and home responsibilities. This allows me to travel and develop my career. He also is my advocate”


raels in BT labSTEMM PROFILE: Dr Raelene Endersby | Co-Group Leader, Brain Tumour Research | Telethon Kids Institute | Perth | WA

“… ask the big questions, and design as-near-to-perfect experiments as possible”

Valerie_Tan-41 (1)

STEMM PROFILE: Valerie Tan | Technical Sales Coordinator | Mérieux NutriSciences | Melbourne | VIC

“… sometimes when things don’t work out … it doesn’t mean that you won’t succeed again. My advice? Don’t be afraid of trying again, it’s never a loss”

DSC_0219STEMM PROFILE: Danielle Spencer | Primary School Teacher & Science Coach | Mitchelton State School | Mitchelton| QLD

It was my love of science that allowed me to grow as a teacher. My favourite childhood game was playing science. My first chemistry set ended up with me in an eye patch for some weeks”