UNE’s Women in Science

UNE’s Women in Science

As stated by STEMates, “according to recent employment projections released by the Department of Employment, it’s estimated employment in professional, scientific, and technical services will increase by over 14% in the next five years."

Further to this, “in 2030 young workers will on average spend 77 per cent more time using science, technology, maths and engineering (STEM) skills than the same jobs demand now,” reported news.com.au, based on The Foundation for Young Australians Report.

Dr Erica Smith, Jackie Reid and Jasmine Muir are all successful women working in science at UNE, but that’s not all they have in common. They recognise the role they have to play in equipping the workforce with the diverse, well-rounded and adaptable STEM graduates it needs.

Jasmine Muir, a Research Fellow within the Agriculture Research Group and PhD student has worked in science and more specifically science technology for 18 years.

She has seen STEM related jobs change over her career and understands how crucial it is to have a well-rounded knowledge of STEM subjects. Ms Muir’s current position with UNE encompasses a wide range of knowledge from STEM disciplines including maths, science and technology.

“I have a technical role in a team where we use remote sensing and satellite images to improve crop yield, forecast and map variability across the crops. I use physics, maths and computer science in my field.”

Ms Muir not only acknowledges the importance of having students educated in STEM, but the importance of having a diverse workforce.

“It’s important [equity in STEM]; everyone brings something different to the research we’re doing. Background plays a big role in that. Having diversity on a team and being able to draw on those different experiences in solving problems is very important.”

While Ms Muir has spent a lot of her working career in private sectors where she utilised technology for remote sensing of koala habitat mapping, vegetation structure assessment and ground cover monitoring, she plans to pursue a career in academia at UNE.

“I had a permanent government job before I came to UNE, one of the main reasons I moved here is because I enjoy teaching. I taught at the University of Queensland in Brisbane and seeing the students engage and showing them practical examples was rewarding in itself. I have a passion for educating the next generation.”

Jackie Reid’s passion for education started as an honours student when she began tutoring peers. Since then she has worked in higher education for more than 25 years both in Australia and overseas.

Ms Reid now works as a Senior Lecturer in Statistics at UNE, but her passion for STEM education doesn’t stop in the classroom; she is the First Year Learning and Teaching Coordinator for Science and Technology, and also conducts research in statistics and science education.

As First Year Teaching Coordinator she has been a mentor not only to students, but peers, giving them opportunities to research different approaches to teaching and providing recourses for them and their students.

“A key focus of my research and teaching has been getting students engaged in the sciences. Within my own discipline, this means helping students appreciate how statistics underpins the scientific method. More broadly, I want to help students make a successful transition to higher education studies in STEM.”

“The transition into university can be challenging, and we have a responsibility to maximise the students’ chances of success,” she said.

Ms Reid recognises that STEM positions and requirements are constantly changing, and students need skills that will allow them to adapt.

“Some of the jobs that our commencing students will be working in don’t even exist yet,” said Ms Reid.

“Helping them develop the basic skills that will allow them to adapt and change is crucial.”

Ms Reid also feels strongly about the need for an equitable workforce in STEM, making a more effective and diverse group.

“Equity in STEM is about opening up opportunities, not just for females but for all different groups of people, because we know that the most effective teams are the ones with members from different backgrounds, who can contribute a diverse range of attitudes and different ways of thinking.”

In 2015 Ms Reid was project leader of a mentoring program called Balancing the Equation. The aim of the project was to provide mentoring and career advice for first year female science students.

“We had 24 off-campus and on-campus students and we paired them up with an academic mentor and a mentor working out in industry. It was a very successful program and at the moment we have another funding application in to run the program again,” she said.

Dr Erica Smith who works as Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at UNE, was co-project leader of the Balancing the Equation Program.

I think it’s important to have general diversity in the workplace; gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity. The more diverse the workforce, the more productive everything is. Women don’t have a level playing field to start with, so to me the issue is making it a level playing field.

Dr Erica Smith who works as Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at UNE, was co-project leader of the Balancing the Equation Program.

“I think it’s important to have general diversity in the workplace: gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity. The more diverse the workforce, the more productive everything is. Women don’t have a level playing field to start with, so to me the issue is making it a level playing field.”

Dr Smith has extensive experience working in, and researching computational chemistry, and has worked in academia in Australia and overseas.

Like Ms Reid, Dr Smith’s passion for education started early on as a tutor.

“I’ve been tutoring since high school …. and I thought maybe I should get a job where I can be teaching this. I’m good at teaching it because I can empathise with students.”

“It means a lot when a student comes up to you and says ‘thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you’, it’s one of the best parts of my job,” she said.

While the workforce is changing with the emergence of new technologies, one thing’s for certain, UNE students are in capable hands.

Author: Rebecca Stone
Office of Advancement
02 6773 2870