Read on to meet your new favourite women in science.
1. Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick – Feeling the heat
“I’m not searching for that piece of science to get me a Nobel Prize, or any sort of prize. It’s not about that to me. I’m doing work that matters. This is a really important issue and we needed to solve it yesterday. For me, it’s having the science and the data to understand what exactly is going on, along with the range and severity of the impacts.”
2. Pip Karoly – Cracking the epilepsy code
“Seizures can, on the surface, appear to be fairly random. But one of our big research discoveries has been to pick up the long-term patterns of risk by looking over long timescales of data. In my work we go back into people’s seizure diaries over many years, then integrate information that we’ve gathered from their wearable devices. We can then look at combinations of factors that lead to periods of high risk.”
3. Rebecca Allen – A new view of distant galaxies
“All galaxies have their own properties. They’re not all the same. Through these amazing telescopes, like Hubble, we’re learning that galaxies have their own kind of personalities. You can’t just lump them all together. If we really want to understand how they grow and evolve, we have to appreciate all the different types of scenarios.”
4. Lindsey Gray – Bring on the conservation champions
“New Zealand is extremely innovative in their conservation work. Compared to Australia, there’s a lot more community involvement in conservation as well. There’s a big program there called Predator Free 2050. It’s a multi-organisational project, and there has been a lot of effort dedicated toward convincing the public, and especially private landholders, that all pests should be eradicated from all of New Zealand. They are having great success too. It’s not at all unusual for everyday New Zealanders to have a predator trap line – they will go and check and reset their traps on the weekends.”
5. Hui Xin Ong – Fast-tracking new aerosol treatments into clinical practice
“I used the knowledge I gained in pharmacy to pursue research on developing these new inhalation pharmaceutical therapies. However, I always had a keen interest in biology, and particularly the mechanisms of the human body. Now my research integrates both by developing representative respiratory cellular models as new tools to study how “real” aerosols interact with the airways. My ultimate goal is to make safer and more effective therapies.”
6. Kirsty Nash – Future seas
“Some people find SCUBA diving claustrophobic. But I find when you go underwater you’re immediately part of the environment – you’re not a bystander anymore. And there’s all these amazing secrets down there – it doesn’t matter whether you’re diving in a kelp forest or on a coral reef or on a wreck, you become part of a new world. It’s very peaceful and at the same time awe-inspiring. I find that I am thoroughly relaxed. It’s my happy place.”
7. Sue Keay – Think small
“To exploit the full potential of AI we need access to more computation resources at a cheaper price in a way that is environmentally sustainable. Mining, storing and analysing data is computationally intensive – costing time, money and energy. Training an AI model can generate carbon emissions from data centres equivalent to running five cars for 15 years. Quantum computing will revolutionise the training of AI models and the optimisation of algorithms and potentially require 100 to 1,000 times less power.”
8. Sarah Pearce – SKA’s low-frequency radio telescope promises a first look at the origins of the universe
“A project like this is going to need some serious computing power to be able to understand the data. SKA will have to deal with seven terrabytes of data a second, which is like analysing 100,000 home broadband connections constantly. That’s an enormous data challenge: this will be the scientific instrument with the highest data flow in the world. And so we hope that this will teach us not only how to deal with astronomy data, but ways it can be applied to other large-scale data projects, whether they’re in science or industry.”
9. Claudia Vickers – The next-generation biology revolution promises new products and industries
“In textile manufacturing, we can use spider silk brewed up in yeast, similar to making beer, to produce fibres – at large scale – and weave them into incredible fabrics with high tensile strength, elasticity, durability and softness. These fabrics are produced with less environmental impact than traditional textile manufacturing and are biodegradable – an incredible advance given that textile production is one of the most polluting industries, producing 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per year. That’s more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping.”
10. Éva Plagányi – Counting on maths to manage our oceans
“As an undergraduate student wishing to major in zoology, botany and applied mathematics, I received a letter from the board of one of my scholarships which read: “We don’t see the relevance of mathematics to conservation.” My scholarship was withdrawn after I refused to drop mathematics. In retrospect this was a mind-blowingly myopic comment, as I rapidly learnt that mathematics is to biology what oxygen is to fire. It is and remains the core of almost all the research I do today in marine natural resource management.”
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