Women in science setting sail for Antarctica

16 August 2018

Image above: Participants in the 2018 Homeward Bound program in Antarctica. Credit: Samantha Nixon.

Two IMB researchers are among a group of 100 female scientists from around the world taking part in a year-long leadership scheme culminating in an Antarctic voyage.

They are part of the fourth group selected for the prestigious Homeward Bound program, which aims to create a global network of women in science who can influence policy and decision making.

The Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s Dr Anna Vinkhuyzen and Hana Starobova, with Dr Emma Kennedy from the Global Change Institute, have teamed up with fellow Queenslanders, Bianca Das and Karen Aitken from CSIRO, to raise funds for the trip.     

Co-founder and UQ and ARC Centre for Excellence of Environmental Decisions Research Fellow Dr Justine Shaw said in just a few years, Homeward Bound had prompted changes for the women who had taken part.

“We see women getting promotions or obtaining new roles upon their return, due to their new found voice, negotiating and leadership skills,” she said.

“We’ve already seen new funded research grants emerge from Homeward Bound.”

A three-week trip to Antarctica is the summit of a year-long journey, where the participants explore leadership, strategy, and how to extend the reach of their science message through virtual meetings and an online curriculum.

The Queensland scientists will work and learn with colleagues from across the globe, despite their diverse research interests.

Dr Vinkhuyzen is developing a genetic risk prediction tool for psychiatric diseases to be used in Australian mental health clinics.

Dr Kennedy is the scientific lead on the Coral Triangle Resurvey Project, that looks to expand our understanding of coral reefs responses to environmental change though a combination of “google-streetview” style underwater camera-scooter systems and Artificial Intelligence to process large amounts of reef-related data.

Hana Starobova is a PhD student with special interest in pain and the development of new painkillers from animal venoms such as spiders and scorpions.

Bianca Das is a soil scientist and agricultural systems modeler with a passion for improving soil quality and securing future global nutrition and will shortly start a PhD in soil phosphorous cycling at UQ.

All are keen to boost their ties with other women in science and further develop their leadership skills through Homeward Bound.

Dr Shaw said the program is a long term initiative, which is still in its infancy. 

“We foster science collaboration and the women learn to develop their own strategy for themselves and their careers, and forge lasting friendships,” she said.

“Some find new PhD students, some find new mentors, and some find research partners.

“Our aim is that 1,000 women in STEMM will have undergone a leadership program within ten years.”

The fourth ship sails from Ushuaia, Argentina on 19 November 2019 and will visit several different research stations in Antarctica.

Before then, the participants have a lot of work and fundraising ahead of them.

You can support the Queensland participants by donating through this link and read more about Homeward Bound through this link.

Media: IMB Communications - communications@imb.uq.edu.au, 0405 661 856