The Innovators’ Tea Party have over 200 women who generously volunteer their time to mentor young people at speed networking events around Western Australia. We would like to introduce you to a few of our fabulous mentors:
Medical research scientist
Gina 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.”
Lynne’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?”
Lucy 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.”
Sophia 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.”
Game and virtual reality developer
Camille Woodthorpe is a Game and Virtual Reality Developer. She collaborates with teams across the globe to discuss, design and implement gameplay features for interactive mobile games and virtual reality applications. 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, so I did Law/Commerce instead. I was lucky enough to fail a unit after a year, causing me to rethink my choice and change to a games degree. Instantly my grades became High Distinctions and I loved studying. It was a career choice of interest and passion. My favourite part of my job is constantly getting to improve my skills and knowledge in the ever-growing field of technology. I also like getting to say that I make games and work with emerging technologies for a living.”
Lakshmi 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
Dr Shani Higginbottom 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.”
Jane Macey 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.”
Charlotte Sobey 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!”