Our STEMM stars

A number of Curtin University’s academics and researchers and their personal stories about what attracted them to a career in the STEMM fields.

Head shot of Dr Gemma Anderson
Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Dr Gemma Anderson

Discovery Early Career Researcher, Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy (CIRA)

“I have been hooked on astronomy since I first saw Halley’s Comet. While I don’t remember this event, as I was just a baby when my Dad held me up to the telescope eyepiece, I believe this was the defining moment of my life. As a teenager, I was given my own telescope and was blown away by the beauty of the skies and compelled to learn how it all works. In our infinite Universe, there is an infinite number of astronomical objects to study. Everywhere I look using powerful telescopes, I see something no one has ever seen before.”

Head shot of Dr Janet Beilby

Dr Janet Beilby

Associate Professor, School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work & Speech Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences

“I am fascinated by innovation in teaching and research which motivated me to develop Virtual Reality simulation teaching programmes to enhance student learning. My drive is to mentor students to embrace non-traditional initiatives in STEMM to which they might otherwise not be exposed. I was attracted to STEMM because of the cohort of interesting and energised female colleagues who are such an enthusiastic group of contemporaries and who are not afraid of change or risk. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been associated with the people who are STEMM.”

Head shot of Associate Professor Lauren Breen

Associate Professor Lauren Breen

Associate Professor, School of Psychology, Faculty of Health Sciences

“I’m the type of person who craves independence and flexibility on a day-to-day basis. I don’t work well in contexts where I have a set start time, end time, tea-break time, etcetera! I also love ideas – coming up with new ways to look at existing problems or new ways to solve problems. These two reasons are why an academic career suits me. I am passionate about teaching and research and my mission is to facilitate the development of future health professionals so that they can be effective in supporting people living with chronic and life-limiting health conditions, and providing end of life and bereavement care.”

Head shot of Professor Melinda Fitzgerald

Professor Melinda Fitzgerald

Professor of Neurotrauma and Deputy Director of the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute

“For as long as I can remember I have wanted to help find cures for diseases and injury. As I learnt more about the nature of medical research, I realised that a good way for me to achieve my goal was to get a degree in science, then a PhD and build a career as a medical researcher. I consider myself enormously fortunate to have a day job where I answer questions that help us understand the nature of changes to cells following injury to the brain and help improve lives for people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.”

Head shot of Professor Kliti Grice

John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kliti Grice

Director Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre

“I pursued a career in STEMM because I loved chemistry, art and worked as a veterinary assistant.  I had exceptional teachers and role models in chemistry and art. I enjoy being able to think in a creative way – reconstructing ancient environments involving the evolution of animals. I love to share my enthusiasm with students as they obtain exciting scientific data.”

Head shot of Professor Clare Rees

Professor Clare Rees

Professor of Clinical Psychology, School of Psychology, Faculty of Health Sciences

“When I started out my career as a Clinical Psychologist I was passionate about improving the lives of my clients but also frustrated by the limited effectiveness of treatments for problems such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I was motivated to engage in research to study OCD and other psychological disorders to contribute to scientific knowledge regarding the factors involved in the onset and maintenance of psychological disorders. I love the fact that my career in health sciences allows me to utilise my creative side, to approach research questions with an open mind and to always consider where opportunities for innovation might exist.”

Head shot of Dr Zoe Richards

Dr Zoe Richards

Senior Curtin Research Fellow and Coral Conservation and Research (CORE) Group Leader

“Being deeply passionate about natural heritage, and inspired by discovery and research, a career in STEMM seemed like the only logical pathway. Success in a STEMM career is not just about H-indexes and citations, it is about setting and achieving goals and inspiring others. To me, if you can honestly say you have tried your best, you are successful.”

Head shot of Professor Helen Slater

Professor Helen Slater

Clinical Researcher and Professor, School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Faculty of Health Sciences

“I grew up around science and engineering – my Dad was an engineer in the Snowy Mountains (NSW). We had great fun hanging about and seeing bridges and roads being built, drafting tables scattered with plans, pencil sharpeners and high chairs that spun around. What kid wouldn’t be excited? We’d take back roads on adventures, always with a sense of curiosity about the bush and nature. That was the start of my interest in science. I was also lucky to have great science teachers. This background has been key to the exciting experiences and people I have met and worked with in my area of translational pain research.”

Head shot of Dr Laura Machuca Suarez

Dr Laura Machuca Suarez

Senior Research Fellow, WA School of Mines, Faculty of Science and Engineering

“It all started years ago when I finished my first degree in science (microbiology) and was successful at obtaining two internships with industry at the end of my studies. The two internships had different purposes but both involved participating in research aiming at developing and applying novel technologies to solve environmental and equipment integrity issues; importantly, I learnt to problem-solve and think analytically, skills at the heart of STEMM studies. I immediately realised the importance of developing knowledge that will have a direct impact on our society and that will contribute to our economy and sustainability, then I certainly became passionate about pushing our understanding to solve real-life problems.”

Head shot of Professor Reena Tiwari

Professor Reena Tiwari

Professor, School of Design and the Built Environment, Faculty of Humanities

“As a youngster, I was passionate about designing and creating things. However, during the 1980s, disciplines of architecture and engineering attracted more males, since these jobs involved working on sites, while it was preferred for the women to have an office or home-based jobs. However, this aspect of the work where you work directly and collaboratively with the client and the community, where you take your ‘office’ into the public domain and are able to see the immediate impact of your work, carried a great appeal for me and I became one of 15 female students in an engineering institute of around 1500 students.”

If you would like your story to feature on this page, please contact Athena.Swan@curtin.edu.au