Prof Adrienne Clarke
Dr Rowan Brookes

Adrienne E Clarke AC FAA FTSE
Laureate Emeritus Professor
The University of Melbourne

Professor Clarke’s research is in the field of plant molecular biology. She is a founder of Hexima Ltd, an Australian company focused on control of fungal disease and agricultural biotechnology.

She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) and Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

She was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia in 2004.  She served as Chairman of the CSIRO Board (1991-1996), Lieutenant Governor of Victoria (1997-2000) and Chancellor of La Trobe University (2011–2017).

What is your job and what do you love most about it?

After a career as a research scientist and serving on many company and Government boards, I am now spending more time helping support science and young scientists. It is wonderful to see the creativity and energy of the young scientists who are making such contributions to discovery and innovation.

What led you to go into a career in STEM?

Firstly, it was having a wonderful maths and physics teacher at school. Secondly, it was being taken on a school excursion to The Great Barrier Reef when I was a teenager. The sight of the world under the sea was just amazing to me. I wanted to find out and learn how this was all possible and how it came to be. That set me on the path of biology and chemistry.

What do you envision as the future of women in STEM and how do you hope to contribute to that?

There is no doubt that the women have the talent and the drive to excel in STEM. Often the demands of child bearing and rearing have made it difficult to keep the momentum of a career. The current generation is more one of shared parenting and domestic responsibilities, which really helps women who take up the challenge of a career in STEM. Also, work places are acknowledging the needs and flexibility to support women at his stage of their careers.

What advice would you give to young girls interested in STEM?

Go for it!! It is the most exciting work I can imagine.

What is an unexpected or cool fact about you?

Hmm. Hard to say. Maybe it is that for many years (forty or so) a group of friends made during my life in science and I have walked and skied together all over the world. We still do!

 

Dr Rowan Brookes

Dr Rowan Brookes is the Program Director – Enterprise Education at Monash University and an academic in School of Biological Sciences. Rowan has over a decade of experiencing teaching undergraduate science and leading educational change initiatives in higher education and not-for-profit sector. She sits on the Women’s Advisory Roundtable for the Minister for Jobs and Innovation and is the co-lead on the Women in STEM side-by-side program with veski and the UK Consulate – General, Melbourne. In 2016 she was the winner of the Telstra Business Women’s Award (public service and academic).

What is your job and what do you love most about it?

I research, design, implement, and deliver science education for the future. I do this while wearing a few different hats. As a researcher, I work with a multidisciplinary team undertaking research to support best-practice teaching and enhance learning outcomes in science. As a leader I bring over a decade of experience in implementing change initiatives and teaching. I use this to reinvigorate the science curriculum with 21st century employability, leadership, and enterprise skills. As a teacher, I encourage my students to become lifelong learners who have the tenacity, adaptability, self-awareness, and creativity to act on the global stage. The thing that I love the most about my job is working with brilliant young scientists and helping them to achieve things beyond their wildest dreams.

What led you to go into a career in STEM?

I didn’t find STEM, it found me and I’m so glad it did because it’s given me so many opportunities. As a young girl I was extremely curious and highly adventurous. I loved to climb trees, grow vegetables and ride my bike. STEM is a great way to explore the world and is a great option for young people who are curious and want to impact the world in a positive way. The more I learn about the way that the world works through science, the more I am awakened to the everyday miracles that are happening around us everywhere. I’m also a rule-breaker and STEM is a great option for people who like to think creatively or out of the box to find solutions to real challenges.

What do you envision as the future of women in STEM and how do you hope to contribute to that?

I see a very positive future for young women in STEM. Traditionally there have been many obstacles for girls getting into STEM, but the tide is changing quickly. There are lots of really smart people who are working hard to make sure that everybody in STEM has equal opportunities. These champions are going to make sure that STEM is a supportive and welcoming environment for girls. I’m contributing to this change by mentoring and raising awareness about issues that need to be fixed in STEM. Being an Ambassador for Robogals is another way that I’m being part of the change. This is a role I’m hugely excited about. Finally, I’m also making sure I role model to my three children (aged 6, 9 and 12) about the awesome options available for them if they want to follow a STEM career.

What advice would you give to young girls interested in STEM?

There are lots of different things that you can do with a career in STEM. Amongst my female friends in STEM there are women that fly drones, identify ants, create art depicting ocean creatures, code new software, research better food crops, make new medicines and design roads. Regardless of your interests, there is a pathway for you. When you start your first job you will discover that there is a real sisterhood between women in STEM. There are lots of other women that have your back and will do everything they can to support you. This is really awesome and I’ve made some life-long friends with really talented women!

What is an unexpected or cool fact about you?

I feel most alive and healthy when I’m pushing my boundaries while surrounded by an inspiring natural backdrop. Mostly I do this through running. In 2016 I completed nine half-marathons, a full marathon (42.2km) and a 50km ultra marathon. To add variety, I also competed in an adventure race (running, mountain biking, and kayaking), obstacle course races (e.g. Spartan) and a triathlon. It’s so important to take time out from work, or study and do the things that are fun and invigorate you.