1 Mar 2019

More Powerful Together: Making our Mark for International Women's Day


Friday 8 March, is International Women’s Day.  To acknowledge this day, the CCS GEDI Committee (Gender Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee) interviewed some of the exceptional female academics within CCS to find out what they do, why they chose a career path in science/medicine and what their words of advice are for younger/future female scientists/researchers.

Women are significantly under-represented in STEM related fields, thus the GEDI committee are using this day to bring exposure to some of the many successful women in CCS as well as to foster and encourage more women to enter the STEM fields.

Lakshanie Wickramasinghe

Lakshanie Wickramasinghe 


The first words that come to mind when I think of my career so far are: exciting scientific journey. As I am approaching the third year of my PhD, I am gaining a greater understanding of medical research and the translational significance of our work in the lab with the goal of improving the quality of life of patients who suffer from debilitating disease. 

I have always been curious about how different physiological systems function within the body and in particular how the respiratory and immune system operate in synergy to provide continuous protection against airborne insults. To be able to investigate how the body responds to diseases and to discover novel treatment solutions is what makes me excited about coming into the lab every day.

Words of advice: Learn to become comfortable with making mistakes because science truly requires both dedication and resilience to succeed.  


Akram Zamani, PhD


I have a PhD in neuroscience with a background in molecular biology. I am now a post doc working on the chronic effects of traumatic brain injury in the paediatric population.

It all started by reading “Molecular Biology of the Cell” during my last year of high school, It was such a fascinating book to me and I always wondered how scientists would have discovered all those protein pathways (later I chose my PhD project to do exactly that). It wasn’t until after I finished my Masters that I attended a neuroscience symposium and decided then and there that this is the path for me.  

Words of advice: Don’t limit yourself to one project, learn as much as you can during your early years, this would help you ask better questions and makes you a better scientist. 


Dr Catherine Carmichael

After completing a Biomedical Science degree at the University of Melbourne, I took a break from study to teach English in Japan for 18 months. Upon returning to Australia in 2004, I undertook my PhD and initial postdoctoral training at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, before accepting a Research Fellow position at the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases at Monash University in 2014. My research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms driving leukaemia development, with the ultimate goal of identifying novel methods for therapeutically targeting this disease.

I chose to study science because I was fascinated by how the human body works, loved chemistry at high school and was enthralled by what I saw when I visited the biology and chemistry labs at the University of Melbourne’s open day during my final year of high school. 

Words of advice: Have confidence in yourself, never underestimate your strengths and abilities. Find an inspiring mentor to guide and support you, and identify key goals early on that you want to achieve. Career changing opportunities will rarely land at your feet - put yourself out there, be proactive and make your own fortune. Above all, follow your instincts and do what you love……the hard stuff will be easier to deal with if you are inspired by what you are doing everyday. 


Director - MAPrc 

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni
I qualified as a medical doctor, then specialised as a psychiatrist and subsequently built a career in psychiatry research - most recently specialising in developing new treatments, new understanding and new services for women with mental illnesses. I have established two research centres and am the Founder/Director of a very large clinical research centre affiliated to Monash University and the Alfred Hospital - the Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre (MAPrc).

 I wanted to be a doctor from the age of 11 with the aim of helping people. The scientific aspects of medicine fascinated me during my early years as a medical student and this prompted me to become a researcher.

Words of Advice: Go for your goals and enjoy yourself doing so. You can have it all - so don't feel held back by concerns regarding having children and a career - BUT - choose a life partner carefully. Pick somebody who will really support your career - otherwise you will find yourself getting very tired trying to do everything by yourself!

A/Prof Jane Muir

A/Prof Jane Muir
Head - Translational Nutrition Science, Department of Gastroenterology

I completed a PhD in biochemistry and spent a lot of time ‘at the lab bench’.  This was followed by an important career decision to train in Nutrition and Dietetics.  After working as a clinical dietitian I returned to nutrition research with a focus on understanding the role of indigestible carbohydrates in the health of the gastrointestinal tract.  I have now been involved in this area of research for nearly 30 years.

I have always had a strong interest in health and nutrition.  Degrees in Biochemistry, Nutrition Science & Dietetics, therefore, were the perfect combination to allow me to pursue a career in this area.  The combination of the basic science skills with the practical skills of working clinically with patients has really helped me to translate the evidence-based science  (diet therapies) out to the patients and health professionals. The development of the Low FODMAP diet therapy by our team to treat the gastrointestinal  symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome is a perfect example of this.

Words of Advice: Science research is a stimulating and fulfilling area to work in - so keep going with your science subjects at school.  I have been able to combine having a family and continuing my career in nutrition research – so while challenging at times - a career in science is also very rewarding. 


For further reading about Women in STEM see article by CCS GEDI Committee member Dr Jessica Borger: https://womensagenda.com.au/uncategorised/heres-what-is-being-done-to-empower-promote-and-retain-australian-women-in-stem/


CCS GEDI Committee (Gender Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee)

Chair: 
Caroline Gurvich (Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre)
Deputy Chair: 
Maithili Sashindranath (Australian Centre for Blood Diseases)
Committee Members:
Min Tan (Department of Diabetes)
David Wright (Department of Neurosciences)
Ashleigh Clarke (CCS Research Manager)
Kim Murphy (Department of Immunology and Pathology)
Jessica Borger (Department of Immunology and Pathology)



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