Our Committee

Over 30 volunteers from the five WiSPP institutes participate in the design of our programs and change initiatives. They are researchers and professional staff who share WiSPP’s vision and are involved in shaping its future.


 

Advisory

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Prof Julie Bernhardt

The Florey Institute

Julie’s research focuses on stroke rehabilitation and recovery. She is a Deputy Director of the Florey Institute, co-head of the stroke division, and leads the AVERT Early Intervention Research Program which is the largest international randomised controlled trial of very early rehabilitation ever conducted in stroke.

Julie contributes to gender equity in many different ways, most of which are very ‘hands on’. Julie founded WiSPP in 2013 to address gender inequality in medical research with the help of Emma Burrows and later an enthusiastic and wonderful group of women and men. Inspired by the collective impact framework, Julie saw that the deeply entrenched and complex social problems surrounding the progression of women in science needed to be jointly tackled by each institute.

 
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Dr Joanne Hildebrand

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

I work on a form of programmed cell death called ‘necroptosis’ – where cells in our bodies literally swell and bust open. Cells normally die this way to defend our bodies against invading pathogens – but too much necroptosis can lead to tissue damage and disease.

I am very proud of the considerable efforts of my own institute to work towards gender equity, WiSPP is a great opportunity to meet and work with passionate people across the precinct to share insights and gain new perspectives.   

 
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Dr Lucy Sullivan

The Peter Doherty Institute

My research focuses on improving survival rates following lung transplantation. The long-term survival of the transplanted lung is inferior to transplantation of other organs, with a 10-year survival of only 30-40%. This disappointing result is due to infection and to the repeated activation of the immune system. My work aims to identify the key drivers of immune activation and identify new methods to assess patient immunity to infection.

I chose to join WiSPP as I have a passion for equity and diversity in the workplace. Diverse workplaces that encourage flexible and new ideas have been shown to not only be the most content but also the most productive. I strive to provide a space for this to occur in my Institute, precinct and larger scientific community. I also strongly believe that everyone should be able to work in a safe environment and for everyone to be heard and excel, regardless of their cultural background, gender or sexuality. I am truly excited by the real impact WiSPP can have to achieve these aspirations.


Committee Members

 
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Dr Scott Ayton

The Florey Institute

Scott Ayton’s research encompasses both laboratory and clinical research relating to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, in order to investigate disease mechanisms, discover new biomarkers, and develop therapeutics. He has a particular interest in iron neurochemistry and regulated cell death pathway called ferroptosis.

I think that diversity, and particularly gender diversity, is an asset of scientific workplaces, where different perspectives, approaches, and styles are often necessary to crack complex problems. It is also right that we work toward a workplace that allows people to succeed regardless of their gender. But probably the main reason I joined WISPP is because of the team. WISPP is so active and, by working together across the precinct, is such an incredible force for change. The culture is positive and inclusive – and I want to be a part of that!

 

Dr Gabriela Brumatti

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

My primary career goal is to translate basic research findings into new treatment options for cancer patients. My aim is to contribute to the understanding of how aggressive types of blood cancer develop and their mechanisms of drug resistance, ultimately leading to the identification of new therapies and biomarkers of response that can enhance the chances of cure for leukemia patients.

I joined WiSPP in 2016 with the hope to have a better understanding of the gender equity issues in the Parkville precinct and how we can work to close the gap. Working with the WiSPP team I hope to be able to make a difference, disseminate the issues and action plans with the main goal to achieve a equal opportunity scientific environment.

 
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Dr Emma Burrows

The Florey Institute

Dr Burrows is a research fellow at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. Her research team are using innovative technologies to better understand how the genetics of brain diseases manifest in subtle changes in the behaviour of mice. Her vision is to use these findings and ‘up-scale’ the technologies for use in early diagnosis and treatment of disorders that impact cognition in humans, from autism spectrum disorder to dementia.

Emma has been with WiSPP since its genesis as she is passionate about increasing diversity and inclusiveness in science. She has seen people have “ah ha” moments, change their viewpoints and also their behaviour towards increasing inclusion while she has been working with WiSPP and hopes to see more of this. Emma is keen to see more people join in a conversation on how we can improve the way we work together in the precinct. Our science will be best when we have many different approaches and ensuring that people from all parts of our society have an opportunity to thrive and excel in science is a no-brainer.

 
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DR Raissa Fonseca

The Peter Doherty Institute

My research factors involved in CD4+ and CD8+ tissue resident memory T cell development in multiple non-lymphoid tissues using in vitro activated cells and infections as models.

I joined WiSPP because I expect to connect to women in science around the campus to be able to learn, collaborate and share insights on career development.

 
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Dr Genevieve Dall

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. My work focusses on breast cancer prevention. The specific aims of my project are to understand how and why childbearing decreases the risk of hormone responsive breast cancer and whether this can be mimicked therapeutically in women who have not had children.

 I chose to join WiSPP first and foremost because I am an advocate of gender equality. Secondly, as a junior postdoc I’ve seen many of my colleagues complete PhDs but then move out of academic research as they feel progressing will be too challenging. It’s obvious that this high dropout rate at these early career stages is why we don’t see more women in leadership roles. I see WiSPP as a critical tool in helping to support the advancement of women in science and so I felt compelled to join up and contribute. Ultimately I would love to see WiSPP achieve total gender equality across all 5 institutes. Working towards that I think in these early stages the biggest impact we can have is by shedding light on the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) discriminations women face in science to allow for a conversation about how we can prevent their continuation.

 
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Dr Marie Greyer

The Peter Doherty Institute

I coordinate the Doherty Institute PhD Program at the University of Melbourne. The Program delivers training opportunities for graduate researchers beyond their immediate research topics, and aims to better prepare research students for a suit of career pathways, such as within industry, professional, academia or government.

WiSPP initiatives align closely with some of the activities delivered in the above-mentioned PhD Program. I am hopeful that my experience in the preparation and delivery of individual development opportunities will support WiSPP and further enrich the program for the many fantastic researchers within the Parkville Precinct.

 
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Dr Fiona Hegi-Johnson

Peter Mac Cancer centre

Fiona’s research focuses on integrating biological and imaging information into radiotherapy, to develop new treatment strategies and to develop personalized, biologically driven approaches to radiotherapy treatment in breast and lung cancer patients. Fiona is an active clinical trial investigator, chairing the Thoracic Oncology Group and serving as a Director on the board for TROG.

Women make up the minority of senior academics in my discipline (radiation oncology and medical physics) and although this is beginning to change they still face significant barriers to professional success. Having personally experienced a pathway common to many female clinical academics, of completing my postgraduate degree part-time, and combining my clinical work with raising a family, I felt we could do better to enable talented women to succeed. Ultimately, I hope that understanding how to help women thrive professionally will benefit us all, leading to research organizations that are creative, productive and successful in addressing the needs of the diverse community we serve. Finally, I have a daughter who loves science, and there is no greater motivation than getting up in the morning and knowing I am making a difference to her future too. 

 
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A/Professor Vera Ignjatovic

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

I am a medical researcher devoted to improving the lives of children through multi-disciplinary and multi-methodological approaches. I lead the Haematology Research team at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and our research focuses on understanding the age-specific differences in the blood clotting system of newborns and children compared to adults. These differences are essential in providing evidence-based care for children with bleeding and clotting complications (e.g. children on heart/lung machines).

I joined WiSPP because I want to assist female researchers to tackle and overcome the numerous hurdles that they are faced with on a daily basis, the hurdles that are gender-specific. My extensive experience as a medical researcher from day 1 of my post-doc where I started a laboratory from scratch to becoming a group leader has placed me in a situation where I am confident that I can make a difference for women in science. I want to achieve equality for women in science on all levels and across all aspects, in the Parkville precinct and beyond. WiSPP is the vehicle which can enable the fulfilment of this ambitious, but achievable aim.

 
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Dr Kate Keech

The Peter Doherty Institute

I am the Strategy and Operations Manager for the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Doherty Institute. I have a research background in Immunology (autoimmunity and coeliac disease) and have had an management role in the Department for the last 6 years. Much of my time is spent working across the partnership between the University and RMH to help deliver the vision of the Doherty Institute.

I joined WiSPP because I believe I am in a role that can influence and implement change. I hope to contribute to improving the opportunities for women in science to succeed in their own right and to make sure that the status quo is questioned at the right time.

 
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Dr Yen Ying Lim

The Florey Institute

I am a cognitive psychologist focused on defining the clinicopathological aspects of Alzheimer’s disease. I lead the Healthy Brain Project (www.healthybrainproject.org.au), and my primary research interests are in integrating and translating the effects of genetic, biological, and lifestyle factors on cognitive decline and clinical disease progression in Alzheimer’s disease. 

I am passionate about equal opportunities for all, irrespective of their sex, race or identity. I am proud of be a part of WISPP and a part of ongoing efforts to create these opportunities for the next generation of early career researchers. I look forward to challenging the status quo of currently accepted leadership styles and to be a champion for more diverse leaders in academia.

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Dr Sarah Londrigan

The Peter Doherty Institute

My research investigates the pathways that influenza, and other respiratory viruses, use to infect host cells.  Specifically, we wish to understand how airway immune cells control viral replication to prevent severe infection.  We are also investigating why particular strains of influenza virus are highly pathogenic, leading to very severe disease.

A career in medical research is highly rewarding and exciting, but also incredibly challenging. This is amplified for female researchers balancing career and family commitments, resulting in a distinct lack of female medical researchers in senior leadership positions.  I joined WiSPP to represent the Peter Doherty Institute to understand why this is happening and how we can improve it.  I am pleased to have contributed to the initiation of a mentoring partnership between WiSPP and Deloitte, a multinational professional services network. One of the critical success factors for Deloitte’s growth has been its embrace of gender and cultural diversity. Deloitte is recognised as an equal opportunity leader for women by the Federal Government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency for eleven successive years.  This partnership will strengthen the leadership capabilities of participants from the WiSPP community, so they can learn to foster the next generation of female leaders in medical researchThe .

 
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SUELLEN NICHOLSON

The Peter Doherty Institute

I’m a Medical Scientist and Head of the Infectious Diseases Serology Lab at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory at The Doherty Institute. The Serology Lab includes the State HIV Reference Laboratory, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Reference Laboratory for Measles & Rubella (Western Pacific Region) and we are also part of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis. My work involves public and global health.

I was (and still am) a member of the Equity and Diversity Committee at, The Doherty Institute. Two members, who were also part of WiSPP, said WiSPP were looking for new members and that I should join.

I hope to enlighten people about other career options in Science, in addition to Research. I would also like to reinforce my belief that if you do take a career ‘break’ and do other things, the skills you acquire can aid your future career prospects, even though you may not think they are relevant.  I’d also like to highlight the importance of mentors. I was lucky enough to have a mentor at work. After working part-time for many years raising my children, I was considering whether to apply for the lab head role. My mentor pointed out all additional skills I’d acquired and gave me confidence that I could do the role.

 
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Priyanka Pillai

The Peter Doherty Institute

Bioinformatics and Health Informatics are areas of interdisciplinary research that attempts to solve biomedical problems using information technology and computational methods. With a background in bioinformatics, I am currently working as a health informatics specialist in the area of preparedness research that will strengthen Australia’s capacity to respond to infectious disease emergencies.

WiSPP is an excellent initiative to support precinct-wide equity and diversity in science. I chose to join WiSPP to contribute towards supporting women in leadership positions and achieving gender equity in every walk of life. A lot of women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities are still not fully aware of how to achieve gender equity. By being a part of WiSPP, I am hoping to be more aware of how to position women at the forefront of gender equity and be an active advocate of equal opportunities for disadvantaged women. I am a data person and WiSPP gives me the opportunity to measure the precinct-wide change in culture. Being a part of the individual development and safe cultures working groups gives me the opportunity to contribute towards not only advocating a safe working environment but also work towards supporting the targeted activities that will facilitate women’s advancement to leadership positions.

 
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Dr Elaine Sanij

Peter Maccallum cancer centre

Elaine studies led to the development of the first-in-class novel drug CX-5461 as an anti-tumour agent that is currently in 2 international phase I/II clinical trials in patients with blood malignancies (Peter Mac) and breast cancer (Canadian Cancer Trials Group). Her current studies demonstrate therapeutic benefit for CX-5461 against advanced ovarian cancer and support a plan for a phase I/II trial in ovarian cancer in 2019 at Peter Mac. Her current research objectives include:

  1. Developing predictors of response to identify patients who will response to this novel therapy

  2. Design and validate optimal combination therapies to improve the outcome of patients with ovarian cancer

I chose to join WiSPP to represent Peter Mac and to coordinate our efforts in identifying the specific barriers preventing gender equity within the precinct and across the medical research sector. In late 2018, I accepted the role of Chair of Peter Mac Research Division’s Gender Equity Committee. We want to work together with WiSPP to identify, initiate and assess changes and provide series of recommendations and actions to improve gender equality and female representation at the senior level and in leadership roles within the precinct.

 

Dr Miranda Smith

The Peter Doherty Institute

My work straddles public health, project management and science communication. I manage the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies (APPRISE), drawing on my research background in HIV immunology and clinical research. I am also part of the Australian HIV Cure Community Partnership and write for and manage the website hivcure.com.au.

I have become involved in WiSPP to contribute to a vibrant community of changemakers. We have a strong pool of talent in medical research, and discrimination of any sort should not hamper our ability to make the most of it. The persistent under-representation of women in senior leadership positions is the tip of the equity iceberg. We need to develop a workplace culture where discrimination doesn’t hold anyone back, where casual sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination don’t happen (and are certainly not rewarded). Joining together across institutes is a powerful way to progress change at a level that’s bigger than any one of us, and to identify and target issues that need to be addressed at a higher level.

 
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Dr Marie Trussart

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

I work in the Bioinformatics department analysing clinical data of cancer patients receiving different drugs. I develop computational methods to assess which cells are sensitive or resistant to different drugs so that can it be used to develop new drugs.

I am particularly concern by the low rate of female participation in STEM education and STEM careers. I have been aiming to address such bias by empowering women and raise awareness and interest of high-school girls. Indeed, I am a co-organizer of the R-Ladies Melbourne which is Australia's first R Programming community for women that exists to promote gender diversity. Additionally, I am involved into the BrainSTEM mentoring program of high-school across Victoria. Both roles are rewarding experiences that I am thoroughly enjoying and I wish to get more involved in a large organization such as WiSPP that contribute to overcome these barriers. As a woman in science I want to make a difference and I hope my participation in WiSPP will give me an impactful learning practice to be actively involved in promoting women in STEM careers and leadership roles.