Women making an impact in STEMM

Across the University of Sydney, female researchers are breaking new ground in their fields.

As part of National Science Week, the university asked some inspiring women about succeeding in STEMM.

Computing education specialist Dr Nicky Ringland, from the Australian Computing Academy, completed her PhD in computer science at the University of Sydney.

She is also the co-founder of Grok Learning – an online learning platform that teaches coding and technology to school children.

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She said gender equity was important as diverse teams were better at problem solving, making better decisions, and creating better products.

“Diversity improves the entire ecosystem as well as individual teams,” said Ringland.

“We need more stories being told of what technology – and particularly women in technology – can achieve. Careers in tech give you the power to quite literally change the world. The path to curing cancer doesn’t just involve pipettes and microscopes; it also involves a lot of code – as does combating climate change and getting to Mars,” she said.

Astrophysicist and associate professor Tara Murphy said her main research interests were in radio transients and variables.

In terms of gender equity, Murphy said she would like to see more explicit recognition that people with a diverse range of skills, including communication, organisational and interpersonal skills were needed.

“These skills aren’t secondary; they are critical for modern science to succeed,” said Murphy.

Dr Kathryn Williams is an endocrinologist and senior lecturer at the University of Sydney School of Medicine. She is also the adult clinical lead for the newly-established family obesity services in the Nepean-Blue Mountains local health district.

Her research interests lie in the areas of diabetes and metabolic health.

When asked what advice she would give to a young woman starting a career in STEMM, she said, “don’t talk yourself down,”.

“Many women tend to do to avoid sounding too ambitious. Recognise when you are doing it and stop – this will make you feel stronger and more capable,” said Williams.

Associate Lecturer in oral health therapy at the Sydney Dental School, Rebecca Chen, has just started her PhD.

“I’m keen to discover how mobile health technologies will improve patient outcomes in the paediatric dental public health settings,” she said.

There had been some positive changes in the profession, with more support for women in the dental field, said Chen.