New female recruits in engineering

Dr Julie Karel (top) and Dr Faezeh Marzbanrad (below)
Dr Julie Karel (top) and Dr Faezeh Marzbanrad (below)

Monash University is welcoming two talented early career recruits to its Faculty of Engineering, as part of the University’s continuing drive to recruit more women into the fields of science, technology, engineering, medicine and maths.

Dr Julie Karel and Dr Faezeh Marzbanrad are taking up Research Fellow positions which have been designed specifically for women and structured to allow maximum flexibility for each candidate and their particular career stage and career development needs.

Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor George Simon, said it was a terrific result for Monash. “We understand that to be at the top of our field we need the best ideas, and that the best ideas come from a diverse team. We strongly support and encourage women to join the faculty and develop their careers, and we have a number of senior women in academic and leadership positions. With these new positions, we’re aiming to develop the next generation of engineering leaders and put them on the track towards tenured teaching and research roles.”

Professor Karen Hapgood, Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, agreed. “Monash is actively looking at ways to support women in engineering, but also to make engineering more supportive and diverse in general. These new roles can be adjusted to the needs of the candidate, whether that be flexible working hours, career breaks, mentoring, time for research or building their teaching experience. We were looking for talent and potential, regardless of career stage,” she said.

Originally from the US, Dr Karel's area of specialty is nanoelectronic and magnetoelectronic applications for use in computers and data storage devices, while Iranian-born biomedical engineer, Dr Marzbanrad, is working on an inexpensive device that could be used by midwives and doctors in developing countries to detect health problems in foetuses during pregnancy.

“My ambition is to develop an affordable and easy to handle new device to help prevent and reduce foetal morbidity and mortality which is high in developing countries and remote regions,” Dr Marzbanrad said.

Dr Marzbanrad is proposing a technique which enables detection of the opening and closing of the heart valves as early as 16 weeks of pregnancy. Although equipment which can detect foetal abnormalities already exists, it is expensive and not widely available in developing countries.

“At Monash I have a fantastic opportunity to work with other engineers, as well as the medical department and hospitals like Monash Health. I think that with the help of my collaborations both within Monash and overseas, we will be pretty close to reaching our goal.”

She is particularly pleased to be able to work with the Monash Institute of Medical Engineering (MIME).

“MIME creates a link between medicine and engineering, which is vital for me as a biomedical engineer. That connection is brilliant,” Dr Marzbanrad said.

Dr Karel takes up her role in November and her area of focus within the field of nanoelectronic and magnetoelectronic applications sees her working on magnetic thin films, which are essentially tiny magnets that enable hard drives to function.

“I use specialised techniques to prepare and manipulate the properties of these thin films, which are tens of times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. Then I study them using a host of different methods, including high intensity x-rays from a synchrotron source such as the Australian Synchrotron.”

Dr Karel previously worked for Intel, where she developed new thermal interface materials to improve the performance of mobile devices, and has most recently worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, Germany.

Dr Karel will continue her research into nanoelectronic and magnetoelectronic applications at Monash, where she is looking forward to joining the academic team.