Meet Our Mentors

The Innovators’ Tea Party have over 200 women who generously volunteer their time to mentor young people at speed networking events around Western Australia. Read about some of our mentors below.

Reptile Ecologist

0AB7F08B-ADA7-484F-B327-EE201D4FE0ADAshleigh (Perth’s Urban Reptile Ecology) is a Reptile Ecologist and Animal Technician at Curtin University, and is hoping to pursue a career as a Veterinarian. Ashleigh will be joining us for the Environmental Sciences session at our Perth event this year. We asked her to share a bit about her work, and how she got to where she is today.

“I have just finished a PhD studying reptiles in cities, and how people and snakes/lizards can interact safely. I study where reptiles go (e.g. people’s backyards), what they eat (e.g. rats, lizards, or even food from your compost heap), and what they do when a they come across a person (run and hide, or try to attack you?). My work is carried out in the field and laboratory. In my spare time, I rehabilitate injured wildlife, care for other animals used in research (mostly mice), and I’m also doing work experience at veterinary clinics because I’m hoping to get into Vet school next year.

I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, but due to a long line of bad luck, I lost all interest in Chemistry, Physics and top Maths during high-school and didn’t study those classes in Year 12. My Career Counsellor at school then told me that I “wouldn’t ever be able to pursue a career in science” as a result. I let them talk me into studying Accounting at University, and it wasn’t until a year later that I realised that they were wrong! After spending 10 years at university, 5 years researching wildlife, and 2 years rehabilitating sick and injured animals, I now know that I can be (and really want to be) a great vet. I’m looking forward to chatting to students about all the different ways that you can work with animals (I have done many!)”

Speech Pathologist

EC217D32-CE08-4FBB-9139-615F7BF53D6BGeorgia is a Speech Pathologist (Clinical Lead) at Telethon Kids Institute, and will be joining us for session 3 of our Perth event this year. We asked her to tell us some more about why she chose Speech Pathology.

“At school, I had no idea what I wanted to do but I have always loved helping people. I chose to study Speech Pathology because it suited my interests and looked like it offered a wide variety of career directions. I am passionate about improving the lives of people with disability and this job allows me to do this at an individual level but also at a wider community awareness and policy setting level. I spend my days setting up an Australian first therapy service for young children with developmental disabilities and delays, researching evidence based practices and supporting children and their families – it often looks like playing.

My job is very rewarding but it can also be quite challenging. Every day I am surprised by the amazing people I meet and the wonderful things I get to do. I have had some fantastic training opportunities both at home and in other cities in Australia and around the world. I certainly didn’t think that I would be able to make a career for myself that involved playing with play doh, dancing and singing and doing craft.”

Shark & Fossil Science Researcher

8E0C2BE8-252C-460F-ADDE-B75E29D32A60Catherine (Shark Evo Devo) is a Research Fellow in Shark and Fossil Science at Curtin University. We asked her to share with us what her day-to-day work involves, and what she studied to get where she is today.

“My days are varied. I sometimes spend most of it in the lab or on the microscope looking at my glow in the dark mini sharks. Other days, I will be writing papers, meeting students or working with the university deans. My research also involves fishing for sharks and taking care of them. I also sometimes collect fossils in remote locations in Australia and blast x-ray at them to look inside. As I become more senior, more of my time is spent in front of the computer but the projects are so varied that there is never a dull moment.

At school, I liked biology a lot and was ok at chemistry and physics. I was also a musician and applied to either study biology or be a professional violinist. Funnily enough, creativity and the arts are so important to what I do. You need to think outside the box to be a scientist and being artistic really helps. To get qualified, I studied biology (palaeontology, developmental biology, genetics) and prehistoric archaeology. A lot of palaeontologists study geology but I studied mostly biology subjects with “history of life”, comparative morphology and developmental biology being the most relevant to my current job.”

Researcher: Optical Imaging

075E0549-42D9-4ECF-A893-D14FAC929E0DGavrielle is a PhD Candidate at The University of Western Australia researching optical imaging tools, and will be joining us for session 5 of our Perth event this year. We asked her to tell us some more about what her research involves and how she chose her career path.

“I chose to work in optics because I have always been interested in how humans use light to perceive and interact with the world around them. In my work, I research new medical imaging tools. On any given day, I might be working on a variety of tasks, including designing and modelling imaging systems on the computer and constructing systems of lasers, lenses, and optical fibres. We test these systems by imaging test samples such as cells in a petri dish and tissue samples from animals such as pigs and sheep.

Science was always my favourite subject in school. I was particularly inspired by my two of my high school science teachers whose encouragement and enthusiasm for physics helped me to see myself as a scientist and engineer. At university, I studied Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics for my Undergraduate degree. I also earned a Master’s degree in Applied Physics. I chose biomedical imaging specifically because I wanted to find a career path that allowed me to help people and give back to my community.”

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality Developer

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Camille is a Lead VR/AR Developer at St John Ambulance WA. She manages all aspects of technical production, and is involved in primary coding and prototype development. We asked her to tell us about how her passion became her career.

“I grew up with 3 brothers and through them was exposed to games from a young age. I loved playing games, and at around 10 years of age I also started making my own art. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do after high-school because no one thought game development was a viable, practical option. After studying a Uni degree that wasn’t for me, I switched over to a Games degree at Murdoch University and felt I had found my place. When I first started my Games degree I didn’t expect my career to be very financially rewarding or secure – I basically took a leap of faith because I knew it was something I enjoyed doing. What I failed to consider was how the future could pan out. The technologies I work with today have tremendous potential and job opportunities in this field are growing every year.”

Planetary Scientist

CD8C044E-8614-43E9-B6C0-1E109A55695ANicole is a PhD student in Planetary Science & Cosmochemistry at the Space Science and Technology Centre, Curtin University. We asked her to share a bit about what she does and about how she ended up in the field.

“My day-to-day work involves studying the oldest and rarest materials preserved within meteorites, in-order to unlock the mysteries of early solar system evolution. I use computers, read articles and utilize machines that help me look at these meteoritic materials right down to the atomic scale.

In high school, I was interested in a wide range of subjects; literature, music, maths, biology, physics, chemistry, drama and social sciences. I chose to study Geology at Uni, because I found it let me do a little bit of almost all of my favourite subjects and it even included some art. I studied Geology and in honours transferred into the planetary science specialisation. Since I started in this career, the entire journey has been an adventure I never could have imagined as a teen. I have got to work for the Desert Fireball Network, a team of researchers who developed a meteorite tracking system. Joining this team has enhanced my skills and allowed me to work in the outback. I was also selected for a NASA internship which has now turned into a continued collaboration for my PhD.”

Chemical Analyst

715DFAB6-EE57-42B8-A828-F5D66C73F06ESheena is a Chemical Analyst of Illicit Drugs at ChemCentre. We asked her to tell us some more about what she does and to share some insights into choosing a career path.

“My work involves the analysis of samples provided by the WA Police and other agencies that may contain illicit drugs. I mainly use preliminary (spot) tests, extraction chemistry and analytical instruments that aid the identification of these samples. Additionally, I am on the clandestine laboratory team at the ChemCentre, which attends scenes which may involve the manufacture of illicit drugs and are concerned with the safety of those involved and the sampling and/or disposal of possibly dangerous items.

I changed my mind and university degree many times to suit where my preferences took me as I learned what I enjoyed studying and what I didn’t. This meant I spent more years at university than initially intended but I didn’t mind too much as I got to constantly learn and gain experiences. We all face many obstacles on the paths to our careers, my barriers included those financial and mental. It can be difficult to reach our goals when there are many other priorities in life such as work, relationships and/or health. The key is determination and doing what you love in balance with your studies/work (which hopefully you also love). I found that by not always prioritising my studies as No.1 I could more fully succeed and be motivated in those studies, in other life goals and gain perspective on a happy healthy life. It’s not a race to the finish line.”

Physiotherapist

2F81DFA1-F1AF-4D25-8B42-4B59617B479DClaire is a Team Leader and Physiotherapist at Therapy Focus. We asked her to tell us why she chose this career path.

“I work as a Physio with children and adults with disabilities. I also lead a team of allied health professionals including OT, speech, psychology, and behaviour support clinicians. I work in a community setting, so we see people at home, school or in the community.

I grew up dancing and I was always interested in the human body and the way it moved and worked. Physio was a really natural and obvious choice for me. I wanted to be a dance physiotherapist, but I wasn’t as passionate about that part of my uni studies. I found myself in the disability sector and haven’t looked back. I love that every ‘body’ I work with is different and unique – almost nothing fits inside a textbook and so I am challenged to use my brain to analyse and problem solve the best solution for every individual.”

Forensic Chemist

PittsKari is a Forensic Chemist at ChemCentre, and will be joining us for our Perth 2018 event. We asked her to tell us more about what a Forensic Chemist does.

“My typical day involves analysing trace evidence using chemical techniques for criminal matters. I use a wide range of instruments for a wide range of evidence types, from arson debris to zircons. I issue reports, liaise with police, defence lawyers and prosecutors, and testify in trials as an expert witness if required.

I’m often asked if Forensic Chemistry is like CSI. I am like the lab workers in CSI – I do all the analysis for my specialty. I get to use my chemical knowledge and scientific and I get to help society by contributing to the justice system. But no, I don’t normally go to crime scenes, I don’t interview suspects and I don’t know everything about every area that happens to be needed. It would be good to be able to finish a case in an hour though!”

Aquaculture Research Scientist

aislingAisling is a PhD Student at Curtin University working with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, and volunteered with us at our 2017 Perth event. We asked her to share a bit about what she does, and how she came to study climate change & aquaculture.

“I spend the day culturing algae, looking after scallops, oysters, lobsters, and abalone, building aquaculture systems, and running experiments where I try to make baby abalone or determine how future climate change is going to impact abalone. During nice weather, I can also spend my days on the boat counting abalone stocks along the WA coastline.

I always liked sport, science and maths in high school, and chose to study Marine and Coastal Management and Science Communication at University. Considering I thought I hated biology after doing one term of it in year 11, I don’t think my teenage self would have expected me to be here at all! But I’m very grateful I kept an open mind over the years as I love what I do.”

Breast Cancer Research Scientist

CiaraCiara is a PhD Student at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University of Western Australia. Ciara has recently won a Western Australian Young Achiever Award for Innovation! Her research is supported by the Cancer Council Western Australia. We asked her to share a bit about how she got to where she is.

“When I was a teenager I had no idea I would be doing what I am doing today. I was originally aiming for medicine, and only realised how much I enjoyed research when I did my Honours year. I am currently researching whether honeybee venom (what gets injected into you when you are stung by a bee) could be used to effectively treat aggressive breast cancer cells. This involves putting the bees to sleep, manually collecting the venom, and then testing its effects on breast cancer cell lines. It’s such a great feeling when you discover something new in your field of research.”

Energy Efficiency Project Officer

65Karin is an Energy Efficiency Project Officer at the City of Mandurah.

We asked Karin to tell us how she got to be in her current role, and why she loves it.

“When I left school I had no idea what I wanted to do and didn’t start my degree until I was 28. I spent my 20s travelling and working in hospitality and administrative roles – it took me a long time to discover my passion and decide on a direction. I chose to work in sustainability because I wanted to contribute to climate change mitigation and the only way to do that is to decarbonise our energy supply.

I studied an undergraduate degree in Sustainable Development, and am currently completing a Graduate Diploma in Energy Management. Landing this job at the City of Mandurah doing exactly what I want to be doing was a culmination of many years of study (next to working full time) and working in a related area of the commercial sector. I really feel like all the hard work has paid off and it has turned out to be an amazingly positive working environment. When you get to work every day to contribute to a cause that you genuinely care about and connect with like-minded people you really feel like you are making an impact. I couldn’t be happier with where I am right now.”

Speech Pathologist

Read, CarisCaris is a Speech Pathologist at the Statewide Speech and Language Service.
We asked Caris to tell us what she does and why she chose to be a speech pathologist.

“I currently work with teachers to support children with language, speech and literacy difficulties in the classroom. Prior to this I was working in private practice where I provided individual therapy to children with speech, language, literacy & fluency (stuttering) difficulties.

I chose to study Speech Pathology because of my interest in health and human biology. I chose to work in the paediatric field because I found it so rewarding to help children develop skills that would help them to achieve academically, socially & emotionally throughout their lives. It is a basic human need to be able to communicate effectively with others and be understood – to help clients achieve that is a great feeling.”

Medical Research Scientist

19667547_1709860855709541_3730652959174663403_o.jpgGina is a NHMRC Career Development Fellow at The University of Western Australia and Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. She works on neurogenetic diseases with her team and tries to identify the cause and mechanism of these diseases in families or patients. We asked her to tell us a little about her work and why she loves what she does.

“I love that what we do helps patients and families, I’m very lucky that the research I do is immediately translated into diagnostics. One of the most amazing parts of my job is that I get to travel to conferences in fantastic destinations and get to meet and work with amazingly clever people from all over the world – the muscle research community is my second family. I have travelled to Italy, Spain, Oxford, Berlin and Amsterdam for conferences and/or collaborations.
The most rewarding experience of my career so far was receiving a letter from a neurologist in Turkey with a photograph and a thank you letter on behalf of a family that had lost two babies to a muscle disease. We identified the cause of the disease in the family and they were then able to have prenatal diagnosis for their third pregnancy and had a healthy baby boy. This was their first healthy baby.”

Palynologist

19554906_1717923821569911_4751407806094257378_n.pngLynne’s role as a Palynologist is very varied as a researcher and supervisor at Curtin University and a consultant to mining companies, CSIRO and the police. She studies pollen extracted from sediments to provide information about their age, the climate and vegetation at the time they were deposited, and from soil and forensic exhibits to determine if there is a relationship between them. We asked her to tell us a little about how she came to be a Palynologist.

“I did my geology degree as a mature aged student after 10 years of high school teaching (Phys Ed and Science). When I went to school girls were not encouraged to do science, so I came to it late. I have always been fascinated by rocks and the Earth’s history. The forensic aspect of my work came about by happenstance 20 years ago when I was asked to work on a Queensland murder case. Since then I have worked on numerous homicide, rape and drug cases. What I love most is solving the puzzles pollen analysis presents. What age is this rock and what type of vegetation contributed to the pollen and spores within it? Is the suspect guilty – or not?”

Planetary Scientist

19983435_1724799007549059_789940176757626337_o.jpgLucy is a Research Associate in Planetary Geology at Curtin University, having recently completed her PhD in the field. She studies lunar soils collected from the Moon and meteorites found in the desert under a microscope to find answers about how asteroids and other parts of our solar system were formed. More recently she has moved on to looking at Martian meteorites to calculate how long it has been since these rocks left the surface of Mars. We asked Lucy to tell us more about what excites her about her work.

“I didn’t realise I would still be as excited by my work as a full-time researcher compared to when I was a student. I think that is the beauty of finding a career that you are so passionate about. I went down the scientific route as I had quite a passion for vulcanology, physics, and understanding how things work. I love rocks- especially space rocks! I find the idea that I can discover new and exciting things about the Universe from looking at a little meteorite that has travelled to Earth quite incredible. No one was here to witness the Solar System forming, so I’m a bit like a space detective, which is pretty awesome.”

Sports Scientist

20233009_1732474286781531_4383275067123540768_o.jpgSophia currently wears a number of hats as a Sport Scientist for Surfing Australia, High Performance Manager for Softball WA and Associate Professor at Edith Cowan University (ECU). In these roles she works with athletes, coaches and companies to help measure, discover and innovate ways to improve sporting performance or reduce sporting related injuries. She also works to promote women in sport using sports science to engage youth. We asked Sophia to tell us about why she chose to work in sports science.

“I have always loved sports, science and tinkering around with computers or electronics. I wanted something that could challenge my science brain but excite my sporting interests. Luckily the field of sports science and sport technology has erupted and let me combine the best of these formerly divergent interests. I love creating new knowledge and changing the way we investigate and improve sporting performance. My favourite part of the job is having the chance to be a true innovator every single day.”

Data Scientist

DABASIA to add.jpgLakshmi works at Woodside, where she uses data to help with the prediction and optimisation of different engineering processes. We asked her to share some tips for those students interested in pursuing a career in maths.

“I studied mathematics in university and didn’t realise how many career options were out there until my last year. Mathematics is something that is used across all industries but is not as commonly heard about. Don’t be afraid to pursue it if you are interested in it – there are so many amazing things you could do with it! Also, be proactive and willing to take on opportunities outside your comfort zone. With this, you will end up with a deeper understanding of how your skills can be used, and maybe even have found your dream career path.”

Industrial Chemistry Research Scientist

HIGGINBOTTOM.PNGShani is a Research Scientist in Industrial Chemistry. Shani works at Alcoa in their research and development group. In this role she develops new analysis methods and trials new technologies in the alumina refinery plants. We asked her to tell us more about her work life.

“I had always wanted to be a scientist but after years of studying, I wanted more than just a standard laboratory job – I wanted to be out in the real world! My current field blends my love of science and research with real-world applications, letting me work in many different areas and on many different projects. I lead one of our teams of experts to help improve the production of our global refining business. Some days I’m in the laboratory doing tests to find ways to improve the current methods of my industry, other days I am out in the refineries doing field work or helping management with decisions about how best to implement our new discoveries.”

Materials Engineer

MACEY to add.jpgJane is a Materials Engineer and was recently appointed Head of Engineering at Roy Hill. We asked her to share some advice for students interested in pursuing careers in Engineering.

“You aren’t an engineer forever – you don’t need to be in a technical role to get an advantage out of STEM. I’ve used my engineering background to provide a broad foundation to launch into opportunities to work with great people, in a wide range of industries in a range of roles. The roles have ranged from technical engineering roles to hardcore, big team front line leadership roles managing maintenance/operations teams. I’ve had industry exposure to aerospace, manufacturing, nickel refining, oil and gas and iron ore.  Engineering doesn’t trap you in a life in an office as an engineer. It is a base platform that enables you to take on a huge range of alternate career paths. Consider your education in STEM to be the toolkit that you develop to enable you to access any industry as a geek, a business person or a leader of people – wherever your desire leads you.”

Radio Astronomy Research Associate

SOBEY copyCharlotte is a Research Associate in Radio Astronomy. Charlotte has worked and studied around the world and is currently based at ICRAR-Curtin, in a joint position with CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science. She uses next-generation radio telescopes to observe pulsars and study magnetic fields, including that of the Milky Way. We asked her to tell us why she chose to pursue a career in astronomy and to share the most rewarding experience of her career.

“From a young age, I was always fascinated by space. I became especially interested in looking at and learning about things in the universe, which led me to study physics and astronomy/astrophysics. The most rewarding experience of my career to-date was using a brand new cutting-edge radio telescope to learn something new about an object in our Galaxy that we thought we understood fairly well. I discovered and described changes in the radio emission from a pulsar’s magnetosphere. I used the LOFAR telescope in the Netherlands, as well as three other radio telescopes simultaneously, so it was a substantial project!”