Homeward Bound: Boarding the Leader Ship for Antarctica

dr paola magni and professor cassie berry

Two Murdoch University academics have been selected to take part in a global project that aims to amplify the voices of women in STEM and elevate their influence in making the decisions that shape the future of our planet.

Professor Cassandra Berry and Dr Paola Magni are among an international cohort of women selected to take part in the sixth Homeward Bound Program

The aim of the program is two-fold: to increase the influence of women in leadership globally and empower them with skills and capabilities to impact policy and decision-making. In turn, fostering a more collaborative approach to solving some of the most pressing issues facing our world today.

The 12-month leadership program culminates in a three-week expedition to Antarctica in 2022. Here, in this polar landscape, the global network of like-minded women will meet to build strategies to work towards a healthier planet, and a more sustainable future.

The infectious diseases specialist 

Professor Cassandra Berry is a viral immunologist focusing on novel vaccines and immunotherapies for infectious diseases.

Passionate about educating others about infectious diseases, Professor Berry sees the Homeward Bound Program as a chance to raise awareness and spark interest in the invisible world we share with microorganisms.
“Knowing that people around the world are getting sick and dying from diseases with no cure or treatment ignited my interest in how we can fight pathogens with our immune systems,” she said.
Professor Berry hopes to use the program to amplify the discussion about how to prepare and protect society from hidden microorganisms and potential outbreaks of infectious diseases – a fitting desire in the current climate. 

“We share a world with invisible microbes and, sadly, our own human behaviour allows zoonotic diseases to emerge,” Professor Berry said.

“With my understanding and respect of viruses, I have the insight to advise authorities on responses to critical incidences such as the current pandemic with COVID-19.”

She also hopes to use her voice to educate the wider public, using science education to influence students, with their knowledge rippling through to family, friends and communities.

“As social media often disseminates misleading information, I seek to raise awareness of effective strategies for immediate and long-term protection.” 

Professor Berry teaches immunology, microbiology and cell biology to more than 1000 students each year at Murdoch University. Her teaching goes beyond classroom science and exposes her students to the humanity behind infectious diseases in the hope they become change agents for a better future.

“A good teacher is respected for igniting a spark that will burn into a bright flame. My passion is to instil enthusiasm and inspire younger generations to be responsible citizens and take bold steps into changing our collective future, ” Professor Berry said.

Professor Berry is especially passionate about encouraging young women to forge a career in the sciences, knowing just how much they can bring to the table.  “We need to harness the diversity in critical and creative thinking skills that females bring to problem solving.” 

A leader in forensic science 

Dr Paola Magni is a globally recognised forensic scientist specialising in the analysis of micro- and macro-organisms present at crime scenes or left on victims and suspects.

With a background in natural sciences, ecology and evolutionary biology developed between Italy, USA, Australia and even remote Kazakhstan, Dr Magni also studies the effects of globalisation and geographical barriers on the assemblage of organisms collected during the investigation process.

Breaking down geographical barriers in forensic science is Dr Magni’s mission. She provides students with a cross-cultural vision and encourages them to chase new experiences in crime scene investigation through Australian Government programs such as the New Colombo Plan and Endeavour Leadership Program.

Through her research, Dr Magni also pursues projects in virtual reality and the use of remote sensing to develop new tools to help the fight for justice – innovations that have earned her accolades such as the 2020 Business News 40Under40 and the 2020 WitWA Tech[+], Women in Technology WA.

She is currently the Deputy Dean of Murdoch Singapore and the Director of the Singapore Centre for Innovation, Productivity & Technology (SCRIPT).

“I know first-hand, as expert witness in the court of law, and especially in several cases of feminicide, the challenges women face in forging a career in something unconventional such as STEM. I believe the most powerful shifts will come through women themselves lifting each other up and supporting each other,” Dr Magni said.

A podcaster, Australian winner and global finalist in FameLab 2019, 2020 Young Tall Poppy and TEDx speaker, Dr Magni’s passion for science communication is clear. She hopes to leverage the Homeward Bound experience to amplify discussions about the contribution women can make in creating a sustainable future.

I recognise the important role science communication plays in getting the community to think differently about science, creating a new legacy for the next generation of female scientists.”
For Dr Magni, Homeward Bound presents an exciting opportunity to connect with a group of women who, like her, are dedicated to becoming a force for change.

“Homeward Bound encourages a model of leadership – based on being collaborative, inclusive, legacy-minded and trustworthy – that I aspire to each and every day.

“It will bring together like-minded, courageous, smart and innovative women to share, network and learn so that together, we become a force to save our planet and introduce a new standard of leadership across the globe.”

Posted on:

10 Feb 2021

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