The Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute is celebrating our female researchers for the 2020 International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

IHMRI has nine groups led by female scientists. Female researchers also make up the majority of IHMRI’s academic doctors, PhD candidates and higher degree students.

We spoke to some of these women to see what it’s like to be a woman in science in 2020.

For electrophysiology lead scientist Rocio Finol-Urandeta says the demands of academia whilst staying current online to support your career can be time consuming.

“The most challenging part of my career is keeping up with the demands of academic work and the current demands of social media self-promotion.”

For NHMRC Senior Research Fellow Associate Professor Yasmine Probst having a child friendly work environment and flexibility is vital to staying in the game.

Professor Probst says successfully pursuing child friendly options at conferences has been a career highlight for her.

“I worked with a colleague to change the way our professional organisation approaches their annual conference. We worked together to create a child friendly space at the conference for children to play while the parents watched a live stream of the plenary sessions.

Following a successful pilot in Tasmania, the Dietitians Association of Australia has continued to adopt this practice at subsequent conferences, allowing working parents to continue their professional development when they didn’t have babysitting or family support available to them.”

For Dr Yee Lian Chew, NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow at University of Wollongong, a calcium imaging experiment remains one of her career highlights along with science communication.

“When I was doing my postdoc in the lab of Dr Bill Schafer at the MRC LMB in Cambridge (UK) and I did a ‘calcium imaging’ experiment for the first time. This technique allows the visualisation of brain cell activity in living animals in real time. To actually see neurons actually becoming activated in response to the animal being stimulated was truly amazing!

“I also got a real buzz out of Soapbox Science Sydney last year. It’s an incredible, global science communication initiative, to engage people with current cool science and showcase the work of amazing women in STEMM.”

Representation of women in STEMM is growing. Dr. Chew says she is proud to see the number of women in leadership roles in the Illawarra.

“At UOW there are several women scientists in prominent positions. There are also lots of incredible women at IHMRI (at all levels) that I am now privileged to work alongside. That is not to say that I have not had excellent female mentors in the past: my PhD advisor Dr Hannah Nicholas, and friend/colleague/scientific mentor in my postdoctoral lab Dr Denise Walker are amazing women in science.”

Brain biologist and NHMRC Research Fellow Natalie Matosin is happy she can continue her research during motherhood.

“There is certainly more discussion surrounding gender equity and minority representation in general, and awareness of these issues. As a young mother I am proud that I am able to have my cake and eat it too because of the work of the feminists that came before me, including my mother who was a working mum and showed me how to work hard and mother well. The vast majority of my mentors are female and having them as role models makes lighter work for me – if you see it, you can become it.”

For Associate Professor Yasmine Probst, representation of dietetics has changed significantly throughout her career. 

“Dietetics is a female dominated profession and interestingly has seen a growing number of males join the profession in recent years. During the early 20th century, dietitians worked to gain recognition amongst their male counterparts within the healthcare environment. Today dietitians are able to work in partnership with these other professions demonstrating substantial progress.”

The United Nations will also celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8.

Media contact

Lizzie Jack, Social Media Coordinator

e: t: 4221 5432

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