Know your why by Dr Evans-Galea

31 May

Opinion piece published in www.growingtallpoppies.com by DR MARGUERITE EVANS-GALEA

I was at the APEC Women in STEM meeting in Ha Noi, Vietnam last week and I met a dynamic young woman from Vietnam, IT specialist Thanh-Phuong Nguyen. Phuong co-founded Fablab Hanoi and she spoke with passion about the 'why' - why do you want to do science? Working with a number of children and teens, Phuong said the answer most often is 'because it's fun!'. And it is! Science is immense fun. But Phuong pushed harder, asking students' what do you want to do with science?' Various answers from 'change the world' to blank stares came back. Knowing your why is crucial for developing strong resilience and persistence in the scientific career. If you do not know your 'why' for doing science, for doing research, or for doing a PhD… then it can make the 'how' much more challenging.

Reflecting on my own why, I did science because I wanted to help people. I’m a change-maker! Keeping my 'big picture' in mind helped me through long hours in the lab, optimisation of challenging new techniques, failed experiments, rejected manuscripts and unfunded grants. It also ensured I celebrated the rare Eureka moments, those perfect experiments, the Friday data, the high impact publications, the competitive funding success and the awards that followed.

Knowing my why also gave me great freedom. I didn't have to be limited by thinking that a research scientist was the only brilliant career in STEM. I love research, I always will, but I did science to help people. To contribute to the greater good. I can do this from anywhere in the STEM sector, not just research. I'm a scientist who also does science policy, education and skills development, and science communication. I connect researchers and industry leaders. I facilitate learning and upskilling. I help Australia’s future leaders in STEM be the best they can be. I celebrate their success alongside my own! This helps them, but it also helps you and me. It helps all of us.

As a leading advocate for women in STEM, I also know why I support women in STEM. I want to actively contribute to the culture shift we need to foster an inclusive, progressive environment where every researcher can lead and excel. By working together, knowing why we do science, we can ensure the Australian STEM ecosystem stays strong, vibrant and diverse!

Dr Evans-Galea is the inaugural Executive Director of the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE). She liaises with University and Industry leaders around Australia to coordinate and oversee a high level mentoring program. With a PhD in molecular biology and over 15 years experience leading translational medical research programs at world-leading organisations in the United States and Australia, Dr Evans-Galea’s research and leadership have been internationally recognised with numerous awards. Dr Evans-Galea has chaired executive committees, and has served with advisory groups in state and federal governments. Strongly committed to empowering early-mid career researchers (EMCRs), she regularly mentors students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty. Dr Evans-Galea has developed graduate mentoring programs in the USA, was founding chair of the EMCR Forum with the Australian Academy of Science and currently leads the Australian Science and Innovation Forum with ATSE. An internationally recognised advocate for women in STEMM, she serves on the Science in Australia Gender Equity Expert Advisory Group and is co-founder of Women in STEMM Australia. Dr Evans-Galea has been recognised with an Australian Leadership Award and is an inductee and Ambassador for the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.

Follow Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea on Twitter, @MVEG001

The GTP aim is to increase the number of girls studying physics to Year 12. We use the real nature of science and scientists as leaders to inspire the next generation. We are Growing Tall Poppies in Science.

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