Murdoch celebrates leading women in STEMM

Attendees at the Women in STEMM Research Symposium 2022

The fourth annual Murdoch University Women in STEMM Research Symposium showcased the incredible work of amazing women that has led to outstanding science.

220 people registered to attend the event and the Kim Beazley Lecture Theatre was filled with excited attendees ready to hear from accomplished researchers.

Accomplished researcher, Professor Melinda Fitzgerald, kicked off the event delving into her innovative research into the effects of traumatic brain injury and the treatment strategies her team is implementing to limit the damage.

Professor Melinda Fitzgerald presenting at the Women in STEMM Research Symposium 2022Photo by Matthew Thompson

Professor Fitzgerald is the Chair of the Expert Working Group of the Mission for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and inaugural CEO of Connectivity, a health promotion charity that is building on the work of the Mission for TBI. She is the Head of Neurotrauma Research at Curtin University and Perron Institute.

Leading a team of 14 researchers and post-graduate students, Professor Fitzgerald and her team focus on understanding and preventing the loss of function that occurs following neurotrauma.

At the Women in STEMM research symposium, Professor Fitzgerald presented how she is conducting collaborative clinical trials that will work to predict and improve outcomes for patients suffering from traumatic brain injury.

Following Professor Fitzgerald was experienced oceanographer, researcher and lecturer, Associate Professor Jennifer Verduin from Murdoch University.

Associate Professor Verduin took attendees through her journey from the beginning of her career to now as an expert in her field.

Associate Professor Jennifer Verduin presenting at the Women in STEMM Research Symposium 2022Photo by Matthew Thompson

She began her oceanographer studies as the only woman on board a ship filled with men in the 1980’s, moved to the UK to conduct research into deep sea macrourids, then to the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Studies and then to University Western Australia to complete her PhD in Environmental Engineering.

I was the only female PhD Environmental Engineering student at the time,” Associate Professor Jennifer Verduin, Murdoch University

Her PhD focused on seagrass, and it was through this research she proved that seagrass pollinates underwater.

After this she continued her research, travelling across the world and collaborating with others.

Now, she works at Murdoch University as the Head of Discipline Environmental and Conservation Sciences and researcher at the Harry Butler Institute.

Associate Professor Verduin said since she began teaching Marine Biology at Murdoch University, she has seen an incredible increase in numbers of women in her classes.

“We deliver a unit where students come along on the STS Leeuwin II through Leeuwin Ocean Adventure, where they gain real world experience aboard the boat.

“At the beginning only 20 percent of my class were women but now it’s at least 90 percent,” she said.

I think people are beginning to realise that women are saving the world.”Associate Professor Jennifer Verduin, Murdoch University

Dr Farzana Jahan, Lecturer in Statistics at Murdoch University, spoke to attendees following Associate Professor Verduin.

Dr Jahan leads a team of researchers, six out of nine of whom are women, and their research works to understand the best way to present geographical statistics through maps.

Dr Farzana Jahan presenting at the Women in STEMM Research Symposium 2022Photo by Matthew Thompson

She explained that there are four different levels of mapping statistics, however, depending on what you choose will generate a different outcome even though you are using the same sample.

“Let’s say you’re looking into creating a map of where lung cancer is more prevalent in Australia. You can choose to map it very precisely, however, you would need a supercomputer in order to handle all the data.

“There’s also the option to choose a mode that is faster to map but that won’t give you an accurate representation, it will be too broad.

“Our research is working to find what is the best way to keep as much of the information in your map as possible, without requiring a supercomputer or wait for weeks for your data to process.”

Following Dr Jahan, several research students presented their PhD thesis which they pitched during the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition earlier this year and received loud applause from the crowd after each presentation.

From there, we heard from Dr Ruey-Leng Loo, Western Australia Premier's Early to Mid-Career Fellow,and her team, Mr Yimin Wang, Miss Charlotte Rowley and Miss Rosie Jones, from the Australian National Phenome Centre.

Dr Ruey-Leng Loo, Western Australia Premier's Early to Mid-Career Fellow, presenting at the Women in STEMM Research Symposium 2022Photo by Shivani Radia

The research team presented their project into how we can improve foods in order to create better lifestyles and build an in-depth understanding of food and nutrients, the intake of food substances, and their relationship to health disease.

Next, we heard from alumni working in the industry and their fantastic achievements. Murdoch alumna, Dr Jomana Al-Nu'airat joined the final panel discussion along with Pro Vice Chanellor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and Leadership Professor Chanelle van den berg, Executive Dean of the College of Science, Health, Education and Engineering Professor Jonathan Hill, and Dr Craig McIntosh.

The four panellists were asked questions to gain insights into the industry, advice for future opportunities, how to sponsor and support women in STEMM, and how we can get more young women excited about science.

Dr Jomana Al-Nu'airat, PVC of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and Leadership Professor Chanelle van den berg, Executive Dean of the College of SHEE Professor Jonathan Hill, and Dr Craig McIntosh sitting together for the panel discussion..Photo by Shivani Radia

Congratulations to the organising committee for all their hard work and important contributions that made the symposium a success.

If you would like to take part in the organising committee for 2023, expressions of interest are welcome.

We look forward to who will be featured next year.

The Women in STEMM Symposium was supported by the Athena SWANN program which aims to improve gender quality in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine in the Australian higher education and research sector. 

Murdoch University has a long-standing commitment to the values of equity and social justice, shown through our academic and professional activities. 

Interested in studying Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics? Apply today!
Posted on:

18 Nov 2022

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