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Sydney superstars of STEM to smash stereotypes and break records

4 July 2017
University of Sydney women recognised for ground-breaking work

Two University of Sydney women have been recognised by Australia’s peak body in science and technology as Superstars of STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics].

Dr Nicky Ringland.

Dr Nicky Ringland.

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO named Associate Professor Muireann Irish, from the Brain and Mind Centre and School of Psychology, and Dr Nicky Ringland, from the School of Information Technologies, among the 30 dynamic female scientists and technologists chosen by Science and Technology Australia for their pioneering work in the fields of in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

As participants in the 12-month Superstars of STEM program, Associate Professor Irish and Dr Ringland will fine-tune skills in areas such as speaking about their work and encouraging and inspiring others – particularly young women – to consider a career in STEM. They will receive training and development and be provided with opportunities to practise these skills with the media, on the stage, and in speaking with key decision-makers.

Associate Professor Muireann Irish

Associate Professor Muireann Irish.

About our Superstars of STEM

Associate Professor Irish is an ARC Future Fellow who came to the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology to work in the renowned Brain and Mind Centre, where she does pioneeringwork in dementia and memory as part of the Frontier Research Group.

She was named one of the 2017 International Rising Talents at the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science fellowships for her clinical medicine work. More recently, she was awarded the  Edgeworth David Medal at the Royal Society of NSW for her contribution to the advancement of Australian science.

Associate Professor Irish has a longstanding interest in the brain networks that support uniquely human functions such as remembering the past and imagining the future – as detailed in her Paul Bourke lecture about the “Time-travelling brain”. Her research program aims to delineate how these processes break down in dementia to inform our understanding of the cognitive architecture of memory.

“I am thrilled to have been selected as one of the 30 inaugural Superstars of STEM and to be part of a concerted effort to improve the visibility of women working in STEM fields,” Associate Professor Irish said.

“It is so important for the next generation of young scientists to see relatable female role models working at the forefront of scientific discovery and to hear their inspirational stories. So much is written about the inherent biases and obstacles that women face in STEM, yet we rarely hear about the success stories, the innovation, and excitement that a career in science affords.

“I recently wrote about my experiences with the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program, where I mentioned that I feel a responsibility to serve as a role model for younger girls considering a career in STEM. Not long after, the Superstars of STEM campaign was announced and I knew that I had to apply.

“If ‘you can only be what you can see’, then we must dispel these antiquated images of scientists as older men in white lab coats to promote a more inclusive, and realistic, image. I look forward to working with the other Superstars to showcase how fantastic a career in science is and the wonderful opportunities it can bring.”

It is so important for the next generation of young scientists to see relatable female role models working at the forefront of scientific discovery and to hear their inspirational stories.
Associate Professor Muireann Irish

Dr Ringland (BA(LANG)(2008) GradDipComp(2009) PhD(2016)) is a Computing Education Specialist with the  Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies’s Australian Computing Academy and Outreach Officer at the National Computer Science School. She also co-founded leading edutech start-up Grok Learning and the Girls' Programming Network, an extra-curricular program for female high school students.

Dr Ringland completed her PhD in Computational Linguistics (Computer Science) at the University of Sydney and has won several awards and scholarships, including the University of Sydney Faculty of Engineering and IT 2016 Young Alumni Award for Achievement, Google Women Techmakers scholarship, and the ”Making IT Happen” award, awarded by the International Society for Technology Education.

“I'm really honoured to be a part of the #SuperstarsofSTEM program. I'm looking forward to working with such a fantastic group of scientists to show how exciting, diverse and rewarding (not to mention cool!) STEM careers can be,” said Dr Ringland.

“The program will help highlight the ongoing achievements of women in STEM and create new role models for the next generation of girls and young women. Seeing and hearing more female scientists in the media talking about the fantastic work they're doing in areas they are passionate about will help encourage and motivate all students to see science and technology as a viable option for their future.”

Vivienne Reiner

Media and PR Adviser (Science, Veterinary Science, Agriculture)

Jennifer Peterson-Ward

Media and PR Adviser (Engineering and IT)