Women leaders in STEMM selected for the Homeward Bound project

Seven University of Melbourne staff members and associates have been selected to participate in the Homeward Bound global leadership initiative for women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine).

Dr Suzie Lavoie, Professor Frances Separovic, Dr Ling Sun, Associate Professor Jill Sewell, Dr Allyson O'Brien, Dr Kim-Anh Lê Cao, and Dr Marissa Parrott join a group of 100 women selected from around the world. With 33 nationalities represented, this fourth year of the program is its most diverse representation of STEMM fields to date. Homeward Bound is now over a third of its way towards achieving its vision of creating a global collaboration of 1000 women leaders with STEMM backgrounds.

The program involves year-long online learning activities aimed at increasing leadership capacity, strategic capability, and collaboration, which ultimately culminates in all 100 participants embarking on a life-changing expedition to Antarctica, one of the most ecologically sensitive areas of Earth. This journey offers an unparalleled opportunity for participants to not only observe firsthand the influence of human activities on the environment but also provide them with critical insights into the global-scale change required for a more sustainable future, and the tools needed to realize them.

(from left to right) Dr Suzie Lavoie, Professor Frances Separovic, Dr Ling Sun, Associate Professor Jill Sewell, Dr Allyson O'Brien & Dr Kim-Anh Lê Cao (Dr Marissa Parrott absent from the picture).

Professor Frances Separovic is a Professor of Chemistry and the Deputy Director of the Bio21 Institute, where she teaches physical chemistry and graduate students in her field. Professor Separovic joined the University of Melbourne following a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, USA, and was the head of the School of Chemistry from 2010 - 2015. In 2005, she became the first woman to be appointed to a professorship in chemistry in Victoria. She was also the first female chemist elected into the Australian Academy of Science in 2012, and in 2018, she was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of women.

Dr Allyson O’Brien is a marine ecologist working as a Research Fellow and tutor at the School of BioSciences. Her research focuses on molecular approaches to monitor the impacts of pollution on marine ecosystem health. Dr O’Brien was first a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Centre for Aquatic Pollution Identification and Management (CAPIM) in the estuarine research group. Between finishing her PhD and starting her first postdoctoral position, she also worked as the Victorian representative on the BlueNet Project and was an environmental consultant at Jacobs (formally Sinclair Knight Merz).

Dr Kim-Anh Lê Cao is a senior lecturer in Statistical Genomics in the School of Mathematics and Statistics. She is involved in developing computational methods for large biological datasets, helping researches mine and make sense of their data. She was awarded the triennial Marie-Jeanne Duhamel prize from the French Statistical Society for her PhD thesis in Applied Statistics in 2009 at the University of Toulouse, France. Before joining the University of Melbourne, Dr Kim-Anh had built a prolific career as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Biostatistician at the University of Queensland, where she was rewarded the highly prestigious Career Development Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for the years 2015 - 2019.

Dr Ling Sun recently completed her PhD in Physics at the University of Melbourne, working on gravitational wave data analysis projects within the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and has just started her new appointment at California Institute of Technology as a Postdoctoral Scholar, continuing her research on gravitational waves. Dr Sun had received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Communication and Information systems from Shanghai Jiau Tong University (China) and worked in IBM China System and Technology Lab as a Software Engineer and Project Manager before starting her PhD in mid-2014.

Dr Suzie Lavoie is a Senior Research Fellow and is the Coordinator of the Translational Neurobiology Platform and Project manager at Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental health & Centre for Young Mental Health, focusing on research into the field of youth mental health. She received her Doctorate degree in Neuroscience from the University of Lausanne in 2007 before joining the Centre de Neurosciences Psychiatriques as a Postdoctoral Researcher. She is skilled in project management, research operations, and early intervention in psychiatry and neuroscience. She currently leads a research program aiming to better identify neurobiological mechanisms underlying mental illnesses via the collection of large datasets.

Associate Professor Jill Sewell is a consultant paediatrician at the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and is the Clinical Director of the Children’s Bioethics Centre. Her work focuses on improving the health and developmental trajectory of individual children and promoting early childhood and life chances of all children. Associate Professor Sewell is also the Chair of the Victorian Clinical Council, was an inaugural member of the Victorian Health Innovation and Reform Council, was on the board of the Alfred Health and was an inaugural Co-clinical Lead of the Victorian Paediatric Clinical Network. She is also the President of the Australian Medical Council, was Deputy President and Chair of the Council's Specialist Education Accreditation Committee, and was the second woman to hold the presidency of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. She is also a Trustee of the Creswick Foundation, and in 2005, was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for service to paediatrics and improvements in children’s health care as a consultant, administrator and educator.

Dr Marissa Parrott is a Reproductive Biologist for Zoos Victoria, a zoo-based conservation organisation fighting extinction, and has been a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne since she completed her PhD in Zoology/Animal Biology in 2006. Her research focuses on improving captive breeding and reintroduction success for endangered animals including marsupials, rodents and frogs. Dr Parrott has been involved in numerous wildlife and community conservation programs across Australia, Asia, Africa and the Americas, and in 2018, was named an Australian Science Superhero by the Australian Government’s Office of the Chief Scientist.

Read about: Wing Yan Chan's experiences as a past participant in the Homeward Bound project.

By: Michael Hanggodo