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Finding the sweet spot for young women in STEM

20 October 2017
What does a successful career in STEM look like for women?

Five outstanding female researchers, including Australian Laureate Fellow Professor Branka Vucetic, mentored promising engineering undergraduates at this week’s Georgina Sweet Fellowship event.

Imogen Frawley talking to Professor Branka Vucetic

Student Imogen Frawley (right) was encouraged to further her research aspirations by Professor Branka Vucetic

The Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship was introduced by the Australian Research Council in 2010 to support outstanding female researchers and research leaders from the science and technology disciplines.

As the 2016 Georgina Sweet Fellow, Laureate Professor Branka Vucetic has been using the fellowship to undertake innovative research programs and create a range of activities that will support the promotion of women in STEM research at the University of Sydney.

Starting with inspiring presentations from an all-star lineup of female academics from across the Faculty of Engineering and IT, the event attracted current undergraduate students from a variety of universities across Australia who are considering a career in research.

Imogen Frawley, a final year Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil) / Bachelor of Arts student, was curious about the opportunities for further research in STEM.

It was really inspiring to hear from so many brilliant female academics in STEM. I now feel more confident in my ability to continue with study in STEM and the field as a whole feels more approachable and inviting,” Imogen says.

“Seeing these women interact with each other was also a really good part of the day. They were so genuinely supportive of each other, which I think is really important in overcoming the challenges associated with being a woman pursuing a career in STEM.”

Program leader Professor Branka Vucetic is a world leader in wireless telecommunications research who currently leads the Centre of Excellence for Telecommunications at the Faculty of Engineering and IT. Recognised internationally for her leadership in general electrical and information engineering research, teaching and strategic development, Professor Vucetic has also provided essential R&D support to the federal government’s $100m Smart Grid, Smart City national demonstration project on its wireless solutions.

The students also spoke with Professor Xiaoke Yi whose research into nanophotonics and integrated microwave photonics promises to meet our ever-increasing demand for lightning-speed, high- information and communication systems. Recently announced as the winner of the Bradfield Award, Professor Yi is currently working on a non-invasive sensing technique for glucose monitoring in people with diabetes that is highly accurate, fast (real-time), low-cost, pain-free and risk-free.

The young women were given a guided tour of Professor Hala Zreiqat’s laboratory where her team works on the development of novel engineered materials and 3D printed platforms for regenerative medicine, particularly in the fields of orthopaedics, dental and maxillofacial applications. A Radcliff-Harvard Fellow and the director of the Australian Research Training Centre for Musculoskeletal Biomedical Technologies, Professor Zreiquat heads up the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Research Unit at the University of Sydney.

After the tour of the Faculty’s diverse laboratories and research facilities, the women were given the opportunity to network with researchers and industry at Research Conversazione, while seeing first hand current student thesis work.