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Significant new Fellowship boosts prospects for female scientists

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8 March 2017

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Dr Karla Hutt, inaugural recipient of the Monash BDI Outstanding Women in Science Fellowship

Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) has thrown its support behind female scientists by launching the Outstanding Women in Science Fellowship. The inaugural winner is Dr Karla Hutt, who is a reproductive biologist at the Institute.

The Fellowship will help female scientists thrive in their research careers and in leadership roles by offering salary support for three years and laboratory funds of $100,000 per year.

Director of the Monash BDI, Professor John Carroll, said the Institute was brimming with outstanding early to mid-career female scientists and the fellowship is one of a series of measures designed to enable everyone to achieve to their full potential.

“Across the research sector, there is a well-recognised loss of highly talented female researchers resulting in women making up only one in five professors in STEMM disciplines. By supporting future leaders, this fellowship will help to redress this imbalance,” Professor Carroll said.

Deputy Director and Chair of the Faculty and Institute Gender Equity Committee, Professor Moira O’Bryan, said the selection process was highly competitive and that there were many more women who could have been funded.

“Unfortunately, we can only fund one fellowship but we would be delighted to hear from anyone with the capacity to help us extend this initiative.  This is one step in the right direction that supports our best scientists in their world-beating research programs,” Professor O’Bryan said.

The Fellowship is open to early to mid-career woman at the Monash BDI who are leading their first independent laboratory or on the cusp of doing so.

Dr Hutt, who heads the Ovarian Biology Laboratory in the Development and Stem Cells Program at the Monash BDI, said she was delighted and excited to win the Fellowship given the wealth of talented women at the Institute.

“This fellowship will enable me to undertake further high-impact research, potentially answering some of the really big questions in fertility,” Dr Hutt said.

Dr Hutt’s lab is investigating the reproductive lifespan in women with the aim of improving fertility during maternal ageing, and is also working towards developing new therapeutic strategies to protect female fertility during anti-cancer therapy.

Dr Hutt’s research is funded by the NHMRC and has been published in some of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals – a reflection of the impact and importance of her lab’s work. She has also won a number of coveted awards and is regularly invited to speak at international conferences.

“This fellowship will make a big difference for me. I think this sort of funding is critical for women. It helps them to establish and enhance their research career by increasing competitiveness for funding in what everyone recognises is a very challenging environment,” she said.

Monash University has an award-winning program of gender equity initiatives and is committed to building on these to develop a strong culture of diversity and inclusion. It has joined the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot of the Athena SWAN program and is playing an active role in leading this initiative. The Athena SWAN Charter provides an evidence-based tailored approach to improving gender equity practices.