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Posted by SASTA

on 26/02/2024

We continue to celebrate Women in Science with some insights into those involved in the South Australian Tall Poppy program and the South Australian Science Excellence & Innovation Awards. 

Jill BauerMs Jill Bauer

Winner of the 2023 STEMM Educator of the Year - SA Science Excellence & Innovation Awards

When did you develop your love for science and how do you apply that to your teaching…

My love for wine science began during my first vintage in Napa, California in 2001.  I worked with a brilliant winemaker who encouraged and mentored me through that first year and into my early career.  Although the term growth mindset wasn’t yet coined, he espoused that approach and instilled a lifelong love of learning and resilience that has remained with me. 

In practice, I foster this philosophy in teaching and winemaking. There is no recipe to make the perfect wine. Through experiential practice and perseverance, students develop confidence and an ownership of skills and knowledge. A perceived failure in winery decision-making can lead to the best learning outcomes, perhaps not the ideal wine, but experience in issue identification and problem solving.   

My teaching also encompasses open communication and collaboration with students, colleagues and industry.  A winery lab or cellar can present as a very intimidating environment for students who have yet to experience commercial-scale machinery.  It is challenging to persuade some less confident students to lean into their skill development.  I lead by example in the winery, taking a hands-on approach in the cellar where I challenge students to dive into the work, and, armed with the science, to develop their own approach to winemaking. 

What do you like most about teaching in your discipline?

The camaraderie, the culture in the winery, and the stunning resource that is the Waite Campus.  Our approach to grape-growing and fermentation science, at the University of Adelaide, spans sensory, chemistry, microbiology and engineering platforms as well as the practical aspects, and art, of production.  I am fortunate to teach in a program with a long history and bright future that contributes directly to South Australia’s economic success.  We are well-positioned as a discipline to equip our students with the knowledge and skills to become future wine and viticultural leaders. 

What are you working on at present?

The demands on higher education are shifting.  In wine science, I believe our role as educators is to develop and deliver well-rounded, job-ready graduates to the industry.  Graduates that have a grounded, practical approach to not only the science of wine and viticulture but also the pertinent skills and resilience required by commercial wineries. I endeavour to maintain a strong network of alumni globally that ensures our approach to teaching the science of winemaking results in building this strong foundation for students.

Outreach is critical to my role. Partnership with industry leaders, and young graduates in industry, leads to successful outcomes for students. I find joy in connecting students and commercial wineries – watching young graduates launch into their early careers. 

Work Integrated Learning is critical to instilling both confidence and maturity in our students. I have introduced new workshops to assist students with planning for their industry placements, facilitated extracurricular accreditations to increase job readiness, and brought speakers into the winery to discuss the realities of commercial wine production from the relevance of mentors to gender diversity. 

In 2015, I initiated a series, Vintage Conversations.  I invite alumni in for an honest discussion, a transition from the formal lecture. Students have the freedom to lead the ‘Conversations’ relevant to their interests. The in-depth discussions encompass career pathways; transitioning to permanent winemaking positions; identifying mentors; and exposing gender biases and discrimination.   

Advice for future scientists

Show up. Get involved. Do the work.  Practice resilience and focus. Ask questions. Embrace new technologies. Build networks of friends and mentors.  Be curious and never stop learning.   We have access to the most amazing array of information and technologies. Science and our environments are ever-changing and learning can happen anywhere.   Be open to, or seek, new ideas and challenging opinions.  Learning is a gift that we should never take for granted.

Laura EadieDr Laura Eadie

Dr Laura Eadie is the T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (T-ALL) group leader at the South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and a Cancer Council SA Beat Cancer Project research fellow

2023 South Australian Tall Poppy Winner

When did you realise your passion for science?

In high school, I was fortunate enough to have an enthusiastic and engaging biology teacher who ignited my love for all things science. In year 12, I studied physics, chemistry and biology and realised that I was most drawn to human diseases, and finding ways to treat them. So I undertook a Bachelor of Biomedical Science with Honours at Adelaide University before joining a translational research group. I then undertook a PhD which allowed me to nurture my passion for translating laboratory discoveries into impact for patients.

What are you working on at present?

I’m now the T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (T-ALL) group leader at the South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and a Cancer Council SA Beat Cancer Project research fellow. My team and I create humanised mouse avatars from individual patients’ leukaemic cells to use in pre-clinical drug trials. Combined with genomic sequencing to identify a patient’s leukaemia-causing mutations, these models allow us to discover more effective therapeutic options targeted to each individual patient’s leukaemia

How will your research impact society?

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia is one of the biggest causes of non-traumatic death in children and relapsed T-ALL is a death sentence. More effective, less toxic treatments are urgently needed when a patient fails their front-line chemotherapy. My long-term research goal is to identify new and re-purposed drugs that effectively treat the different genetic lesions associated with T-ALL. Our findings will ultimately provide clinicians with an arsenal of alternative treatment options and hope for patients who have relapsed.

Advice for future scientists

The unfortunate truth in the current funding climate is that life as a research scientist is hard. There is so much world-class research coming out of Australia but the funding to support this research, and the increasing number of people who perform it, has remained stagnant for a very long time. In my opinion, being a research scientist is more of a lifestyle than a career and to succeed, one needs to have two main characteristics: passion and grit. As those in the sector would know, continuity of research funding is quite difficult and being a part-time working mother has made it even more challenging. Trying to excel professionally while remaining devoted to your family is a seemingly impossible task; something you cannot fathom before living it. That said, I’m one of the lucky people who truly enjoy their job, it’s one of the things that gets me out of bed in the morning (in addition to an excitable two-year-old!). There’s nothing like the thrill of being the first person in the world to discover something and knowing that my discoveries are changing lives gives me deep satisfaction.

Viythia Katharesan 2Dr Viythia Katharesan

Dr Viythia Katharesan is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Adelaide.
Viythia coordinates first-year medical students, teaches various courses within the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and supervises research students.  

Finalist of the 2023 STEMM Educator of the Year - SA Science Excellence & Innovation Awards

When did you realise your passion for science?

My passion for science became evident in high school as I found myself eager for Biology lessons and always went the extra mile for any assignments and tests in that field. I completed a Bachelor of Health Science and what drew me into this space was learning that there is a lot more to holistic health and medicine than portrayed in general media. Being in academia meant that I could combine my love for neuroscience and pathology, with my passion for learning, teaching, and research – and that has been the perfect fit for me.

What are you working on at present?

I am preparing my first-year course for medical students alongside teaching material for other Health & Medical courses.  This is always an exciting period as I get to be creative with how I design content to appeal to various students who are on their journeys to become either medical practitioners, researchers, nurses, dentists or allied health professionals. I am also planning potential grant applications and conference presentations for the year while editing my PhD student’s thesis.

How will your research impact society?

My biomedical research is currently focused on optimising a surgical intervention known as sacral neuromodulation by investigating components of the gastrointestinal-neural system (i.e. “the brain of the gut”). This will improve outcomes for patients undergoing this procedure for conditions such as bowel incontinence. Alongside this, my student-centred research aims to improve learning and teaching strategies to maximise student engagement with the health and medical sciences.

Advice for future scientists

A career in science requires life-long learning. The constant evolution of the field and inevitable long hours mean that you need to be invested in it to enjoy the journey and uphill battles. However, I think it is important to note that passion for science may not exist from the beginning. Instead, take the time to pause and reflect on subjects you undertake and think about recurrent themes in things that do or don’t interest you that may help to narrow down your future pathways. Finally, pursue your field of choice actively and network accordingly, regardless of how long it takes.

SandyProf Sandra Orgeig, PhD, FGLF15

Professor Sandra Orgeig is a Professor in Pulmonary Biology in UniSA: Clinical & Health Sciences and the Dean of Graduate Studies. To read a more detailed biography, click here

Sandra is also on the Board of Directors of the Australian Institute of Policy & Science and is the Chair of the SA Tall Poppy committee. 

When did you realise your passion for science?

Although I didn’t think of it at the time, it is clear to me now, that even as a child and teenager I was into toys, activities and games that were technical or puzzle- and problem-solving based. For example, when the Rubric’s cube came out, I was obsessed! At high school, my favourite subjects were science-based, including Maths, but Biology and Chemistry were the standouts. In those days (early/mid 80s in South Africa) there was not such a great focus on careers and none of my family had attended University. But I did attend a very academic school and many of my friends were going to University, and my family was very encouraging. As I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, let alone be, when I grew up, and I enjoyed learning, University, was a natural progression for me. I applied for a Bachelor of Science and as I really loved the interface of Biology and Chemistry I chose to major in Biochemistry. After failing a couple of my first set of midyear exams (Physics & Maths), I really knuckled down and got the hang of how to best study and began to excel. Luckily for me those first exams didn’t count, as in those days your whole mark came down to the one 3-hour exam at the end of the year (something we wouldn’t dream of as educators these days!). As I loved the entire degree, and still didn’t know what I wanted to do after the Bachelor, I stayed on and did an Honours degree in Biochemistry. And I have to say, that was really what sealed it for me! Honours was hard, but I loved every minute of it. I knew then that I wanted to be a laboratory scientist.

What are you working on at present?

Although I started off my scientific career as a biochemist, I have worked mostly in comparative and evolutionary physiology with a focus on lung biology. In the past 15 years I have transitioned to the biomedical sciences, still with a focus on lungs. My current research interests include understanding the role and mechanisms of lung dysfunction in a group of devastating childhood metabolic genetic diseases known as lysosomal storage diseases. All our cells have specialised structures, or organelles, known as lysosomes, that are essentially the garbage disposal and recycling unit of the cell. Lysosomes are responsible for breaking down and removing unwanted materials, including large molecules (i.e. macromolecules) that are broken down into their constituent parts and recycled. In each of the approximately 70 different lysosomal storage diseases, there is a genetic mutation in one of the lysosomal enzymes responsible for breaking down a particular type of macromolecule. This causes accumulation of undegraded materials within lysosomes and subsequent disruption of numerous cell functions, leading to chronic progressive disease affecting multiple organs. My colleagues and I are focused on two diseases at present, Sanfilippo syndrome and Hurler-Scheie syndrome. These diseases are characterised specifically by chronic progressive neurological dysfunction and are classified as a type of childhood dementia. Most patients die in their teens or early 20s and a significant cause of death is through lung infection such as pneumonia. While most of the research effort has naturally focused on the brain and the nervous system, we are trying to understand how the lungs are impacted by the disease and whether we can intervene and treat patients to maintain improved lung function.

How will your research impact society?

There is very little awareness of early changes in the lung in lysosomal storage disease patients and very little understanding of the mechanisms and progression of lung disease. Therefore, one aim of our research is to increase recognition and awareness of early lung function impacts both among clinicians and patients and their families. We are about to commence a study, on the lungs of Sanfilippo mice, that has been funded by both the Sanfilippo Children’s Foundation in Australia and Sanfilippo Fighters in Italy. We want to determine whether the lungs of Sanfilippo mice, and therefore likely patients, are more susceptible to an infection because of a compromised immune system in the lung. We will also be testing whether an existing drug that is used to treat respiratory infections in general can be used to treat Sanfilippo mice and reduce the symptoms. Our hope is that we will be able to repurpose existing drugs to treat Sanfilippo patients to prolong, and improve quality of, life.

Advice for future scientists

My primary advice for future scientists is to follow your interests and your passion. Doing science and being a scientist is hard and takes up many hours, so there must be an element to your science and job also being your hobby. Once you have worked out where your interests really lie, then be strategic about your choice of the exact project area or research group or supervisor where you want to undertake your training. Do your homework and ask others who work in the area what the people and the environment are like and what the opportunities are. Throughout your scientific career you will need mentors for different facets of your development – because as you progress in your career, your job will keep changing and there will always be new challenges and you will need to continually grow. A key to that development is to embrace new opportunities to diversify your skills – not just technical, but also professional and personal skills, to continue to grow your networks and to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.