To secure Australia’s health and economy into the future, the talents of women in science are vital. In biology, over half of all Bachelor of Science and PhD graduates are women, yet there is only one in ten women at the senior levels of our universities and research institutes. Physics, maths and engineering struggle to attract women to pursue careers in these disciplines, and still they experience a loss of women at the top. It is not just about having children either – organisational culture and how we measure success contribute. Australia’s research workforce has the greatest attrition rates between the ages of 35-45 years – and most are women. Both men and women are invited and encouraged to attend. Let’s celebrate women in science together by creating an environment that allows more women in science to lead and excel!
PANEL OF FIVE SPEAKERS:
Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO MB BS PhD FRACP FAHMS
Chair of Paediatric Neurology Research, Departments of Medicine and Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne, Austin Health and Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
Senior Principal Research Fellow, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health
Director of Paediatrics, Austin Health, Melbourne, Australia
Professor Ingrid Scheffer is a physician-scientist whose work as a paediatric neurologist and epileptologist at the University of Melbourne and Florey Institute has led the field of epilepsy genetics over more than 20 years, in collaboration with Professor Samuel Berkovic and molecular geneticists. This resulted in identification of the first epilepsy gene and many more genes subsequently. Professor Scheffer has described many novel epilepsy syndromes and refines genotype–phenotype correlation. She recently led the first major reclassification of the epilepsies in two decades as Chair of the International League Against Epilepsy Commission for Classification and Terminology. She has received many awards: 2007 American Epilepsy Society Clinical Research Recognition Award, 2009 RACP Eric Susman Prize, 2013 GSK Award for Research Excellence, ILAE Ambassador for Epilepsy Award, 2013 Australian Neuroscience Medallion, 2013 Emil Becker Prize for child neurology and the L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Laureate for the Asia-Pacific region for 2012. In 2014, she was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and also elected as Vice-President of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. In the same year, Professor Scheffer was awarded the Order of Australia in the Queens Birthday Honours List and, together with Professor Berkovic, was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.
Professor Julie Bernhardt, PhD is a Principal Research Fellow at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Melbourne and Clinical Head of the Stroke Division and leader of the AVERT Early Intervention Research Program. This large multidisciplinary team of researchers are committed to the development and testing of new, rehabilitation interventions to reduce the burden of stroke related disability. The AVERT trial sits at the core of her program and is the largest, international trial of rehabilitation ever conducted. She is Director of the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery that outlines an interdisciplinary program of work from bench (discovery) to bedside (implementation). Julie co-chairs the Florey Equity in science Committee and helped found the Women in Science Parkville Precinct (WiSPP) collective Impact Initiative.
Leonie Walsh was appointed to the inaugural role of Victorian Lead Scientist in mid-2013. In this capacity Leonie represents Victoria on the Forum of Australian Chief Scientists, sits on the Australian Science Media Board, the Science and Engineering Advisory Committee for the Environmental Protection Authority and a newly formed advisory committee for the Department of Health focusing on innovation in Health Services.
Complementary to the AIRG role Leonie Walsh has held the honorary role of President of the Australasian Industrial Research Group (AIRG) since 2011 with the recent transition to Immediate Past President. In this role Leonie has established international collaborations through a new World Federation of Industrial Research Associations and as a partner of the Australian Governments SME to Researcher collaboration (CAESIE) between Australia and the European Union.
Prior to taking on these positions Leonie had accumulated more than 25 years of technology leadership experience in a broad range of industrial applications both locally and globally in companies such as Dow Chemical, Henkel and Visy with a focus on the development and commercialization of technology.
Leonie Walsh has received a BSc and an MSc from Swinburne University, an MBA (Exec) from the Australian Graduate School of Management and is a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. Leonie recently received an Honorary Doctorate (HonDUniv) from Swinburne University of Technology.
Saraid Billiards, PhD is the Director of the Research Grants team of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), overseeing several schemes including Project Grants, Development Grants, Targeted Calls for Research and International Collaborations, with an annual budget of approximately $500 million. Saraid is responsible for ensuring that all applications are peer-reviewed to the highest international standards. She is also responsible for the NHMRC’s Women in Health Science Working Committee. Saraid’s background is in neurophysiology with a PhD from Monash University. After completing her PhD in 2003, Saraid worked for 5 years at the Harvard Medical School where her research focused on the underlying neuropathology of perinatal brain injury with a particular focus on cerebral palsy and stillbirth. On her return to Australia, Saraid continued her research at Melbourne University before taking up a position at the NHMRC. Saraid is a mother to three children and understands firsthand the difficulties that women face. She is very passionate about pursuing the cause of ensuring women have a choice about whether or not they should remain in health and medical research.
Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea, PhD leads international collaborations to understand disease mechanisms and develop novel cell and gene therapies for repeat-associated neurodegenerative diseases in the Bruce Lefroy Centre at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. She has received Young Investigator Awards in Australia and the USA, and presented her research internationally. She was the founding chair of the Early-Mid Career Researcher Forum with the Australian Academy of Science and was recognised in 2013 with an Australian Leadership Award. Maggie is currently an Executive Member of the Australasian Gene and Cell Therapy Society and the Australian Science and Innovation Forum with the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. A strong advocate for women in science, Maggie is also a member of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Forum steering committee with the Academy of Science, and co-founder of Women in Science AUSTRALIA.