Women in Science
Dr Sridevi Sureshkumar, ARC Future Fellow, Head Epigenetic Mechanisms, School of Biological Sciences
"A career in science gives you the freedom to think. As a biologist I like to look beyond the horizon and tackle scientific challenges. Whilst I am a scientist, I am also a mother of two children, and I understand the challenges that go with that. My advice to women in science is to approach challenges pragmatically, try to let go of being a perfectionist in everything you do. I used the career breaks during motherhood to continue my passion for science by attending short workshops on developing grant writing skills and studying how my colleagues wrote their grants, which equipped me to win a national fellowship.
My research focuses on Arabidopsis thaliana - a plant model which we use to study genetics. Genetic information is stored in DNA and made of chemical units called nucleotides. Due to environmental disruptions and some unknown molecular mechanisms these chemical units multiply, expand rapidly, and are known to cause a growing number of human genetic disorders. We have discovered similar problems plants. It is my hope that we can use the knowledge from the plants to manage of human genetic disorders."
Dr Giulia Ghedini, Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences
If science is your aspiration, embrace it and enjoy the journey, says Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) winner, Dr Giulia Ghedini, a Research Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences. Her advice to women interested in science:
“There is always a lot of uncertainty in this type of career but if you take it step-by-step it can be a rewarding journey. Having mentors and supervisors that support you is fundamental. I study how ecological communities function as a whole by measuring how much resources they consume and produce, and looking at how external factors such as global warming, alter these processes. My work aims to clarify how environmental change will impact the fundamental processes of food consumption and oxygen production in natural communities. With this knowledge we can better forecast ecological change and implement plans to minimise drastic changes. Sometimes I worry about being able to reach the standards that will allow me to be a successful researcher. It is a continuous challenge but I will tackle it with the good support of mentors and hard work.”
Vanessa Wong, Associate Professor Soil and Land Management, School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment
Associate Professor Vanessa Wong is a soil scientist at the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment. “The challenge for women in science is overcoming the systemic biases and barriers that currently exist to limit women's and girls' participation, advancement and promotion in science and science-based careers. Visibility matters - I hope that engaging with students and communicating with the public will allow more women and girls to identify with women scientists, while also working on how we can redefine the criteria on which a successful scientist is assessed against. I’m a soil scientist and I study how land management practices and environmental change affects the belowground soil processes such as biogeochemical cycling in agricultural, mining and natural environments.”
Dr Ailie Gallant, Senior Lecturer, School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment
Dr Ailie Gallant is a senior lecturer at the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment and the Deputy Director of the Monash Climate Change Communications Research Hub. “The challenge for women in science is that there is still a long way to go in overturning invisible biases, ingrained misogyny, uneven caring responsibilities, pressure to stay silent about harassment, and the seniority bottle neck. The journey toward change has only just begun. I hope I can contribute to change by being a voice for those who need one, and by being proactive in empowering everyone to bring equity into the workplace by changing their own practices and recognising their own innate biases. My work involves trying to understand why it rains less during droughts by looking at how weather systems change. I look to see if rain-bearing weather systems disappear, whether they rain less, and how systems like heatwaves influence drought."
Dr Carly Cook, Lecturer, School of Biological Sciences
Dr Carly Cook is lecturer at the School of Biological Sciences. A conservation scientist her research is focused around improving the use of science in environmental management decisions. “My advice to a female who aspires to a career in Science or Science study is to embrace maths because it’s central to everything we do in Science and can be your greatest tool,” says Dr Cook.
“But most importantly, do what inspires you, because that’s how you’ll remain motivated during the difficult times in your career. I try to understand the level of integration of science in decision-making, the barriers to better integration and to design decision support tools that can facilitate the uptake of science. I hope my research makes the world a better place by giving decision makers the tools to make more successful management decisions, and when unsuccessful, to learn from their actions to improve their effectiveness in the future. Dr Cook’s research has revealed that 1,500 protected areas in Australia have had their protection reduced or removed all together over the past 20 years. “And we now have a shameful record in clearing native vegetation,” she says. “I would love to understand how we can get the public engaged with conservation again, so they can pressure governments to reinstate or increase protections for biodiversity.”
Dr Yona Nebel-Jacobsen, Research Fellow, School of Atmosphere and Environment
Dr Yona Nebel-Jacobsen, is a Research Fellow, at the School of Atmosphere and Environment (EAE). She is an isotope geochemist and oversees a clean laboratory facility at EAE, the Isotopia Lab. “My advice to aspiring female scientists is don’t let anyone discourage you from your dream,” she says. “I work with researchers and students, supporting their research and learning. My research interests are around the Early Earth. I hope to make the world a better place not only by what I do but by how I do it. I try to create a safe and open work environment for everyone. I am not only engaged in gender equity by chairing the school's committee but am also an ambassador for mental health first aid and trained in suicide alertness. These 'non-academic' skills are important for creating a productive, safe work environment.”
Dr Vanessa Kellermann, Future Fellow, School of Biological Sciences
Dr Vanessa Kellermann, is a Future Fellow, at the School of Biological Sciences. "The challenge for women in science is to have the confidence to overcome bias, not just gender bias but your own unconscious bias, for example imposter syndrome. My research examines whether insects differ in their vulnerability to climate change. Do species vulnerabilities differ depending on the type of environments they occupy and can we predict which species will be the most at risk to climate change? I hope to change people’s perspectives on the important contributions that insects make to our environment.”