Forensics for social change: Scientist nominated for WA's top Aussie

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Murdoch University forensic scientist Dr Paola Magni is one of four finalists for Western Australia’s 2024 Australian of the Year.

Since moving to Perth 10 years ago, the Italian expat has carved a successful academic career and produced world-leading research, but she has also embraced her new home, becoming a champion for women in STEM and advocate against gender-based violence. 

Dr Magni uses insects and other small creatures to help solve murders, but it was seeing the sad results of attacks against women that led her to use her skills and experience to become an advocate for victims, focussing her research on improving the capability of the justice system. 

In 2022 she became the ambassador for Red Shoes Australia, bringing the famed Los Zapatos Rojos (The Red Shoes) collaborative art installation initiated by Mexican artist Elina Chauvet to the WA Museum Boola Bardip as part of the annual 16 Days in WA – Stop Violence Against Women campaign. The installation will return next month, this time to the WA Museum of the Goldfields in Kalgoorlie. 

“I appreciate this recognition immensely, as it signifies not only a personal acknowledgment but also a testament to the recognition and support for my research, role modelling, and community engagement efforts,” Dr Magni said. 

It's not just about me as an individual, it reflects the broader appreciation and encouragement of these endeavours in Australia.” 

Already a successful forensic scientist in Italy, Dr Magni moved to Australia to pursue her life's calling as a pioneer in natural sciences applied to criminal investigation, especially the niche of aquatic forensics.

She said the journey hasn't always been easy, but she drew strength from her dedicated research team, her students, and from the projects she wholeheartedly believes in.  

“My purpose is to play an active role in shaping a brighter, more inclusive, and diverse environment, where a girl can be anything she wants, as long as she follows her heart and reaches for it,” Dr Magni said. 

Often touted as the ‘bug whisperer’, Dr Magni developed the SmartInsects app, a practical tool for pathologists and investigators at crime scenes, enabling them to accurately collect even the tiniest evidence that can be effectively used in a court of law. 

She also volunteers on numerous boards and works pro-bono investigating cases of animal cruelty.  

Inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame in 2022, Dr Magni has contributed significantly to the fields of forensic entomology, aquatic forensics, education, and technology.

And every day she nurtures the next generation of women in science by challenging stereotypes in STEM, and fights for women that have been silenced. 

Science can change the world - and so can you.

By studying medical, molecular and forensic science you could be solving some of the world’s biggest challenges – from exploring the world of disease, to investigating crime, to feeding a country through the power of genetics and molecular biology.

You'll get the opportunity to develop your skills in laboratory testing, techniques, analysis, and reporting, working alongside a community of academics dedicated to educating scientists who are practically and theoretically ready for their future careers. 

Posted on:

24 Oct 2023

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