Unique Women in STEMM scholarship program supports Early Career Researchers

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

In a first for an Australian university to help redress some of the systemic biases female academics face, the University of Newcastle has awarded fully-funded PhD candidate scholarships to six Women in STEMM Early Career Researchers.

The aim of the scholarships is to enable female Early Career Researchers in STEMM disciplines to recruit high calibre PhD candidates to their research project.

Recipients of the inaugural Women in STEMM Early Career Researchers PhD Candidate Scholarships are Dr Emma Beckett, Dr Renee Goreham, Dr Fiona Hawke, Dr Melinda Hutchesson, Dr Tessa Lord and Dr Tracy Schumacher. Their research projects cover areas including nanomaterials, cardiovascular health and pregnancy, food and consumer science, improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, male infertility, and the prevention of chronic disease in rural areas.

The scholarships are an initiative of the University’s SAGE Athena SWAN Action Plan and a collaboration between the Research and Innovation Division (Graduate Research and Research Advantage) and Women in Science Chair, Professor Billie Bonevski.

Professor Billie Bonevski congratulated the six awardees and acknowledged the significance of the initiative.

“While the University has had an Early Career Researcher scholarship program for many years, this is the first year we have targeted Women in STEMM.

“The scholarships will go some way to improving supervision and leadership opportunities for our female early career academics, while fostering the next wave of PhD students. I am delighted that the University of Newcastle is leading the sector in this way,” Professor Bonevski said.

Interim Dean of Graduate Research, Associate Professor Kylie Shaw, explained that the PhD candidates will receive financial support for three and a half years, including the cost of tuition fees and a living allowance.

“Often it is the financial barrier that prevents prospective PhD students from taking that next step. Through our Research Advantage program we continue to knock down those barriers so that academics at all career levels can reach their full potential,” Associate Professor Shaw said.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Professor Janet Nelson, welcomed the focus on Women in STEMM Early Career Researchers.

“Early Career Researchers make a big contribution to a University’s research profile and productivity but historically, female academics in this category haven’t been afforded the same opportunities that their male counterparts have enjoyed.

“This fantastic initiative seeks to address these inequities and support our SAGE Athena SWAN Action Plan,” Professor Nelson said.

“I look forward to seeing the research outcomes from our inaugural recipients and the PhD candidates they recruit to their projects,” Professor Nelson said.

A comment from each recipient on how they will use the PhD Candidate Scholarship is provided below:

Dr Emma Beckett (School of Environmental and Life Sciences)

This scholarship will allow the development of a project focused on consumer acceptance and perceptions of low alcohol wines, a multidisciplinary project encompassing nutrition and health, food science and consumer science.

Dr Renee Goreham (School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences)

This will allow me to continue to grow my research group with an additional student to investigate the synthesis and characterisation of nanomaterials for biomedical applications.

Dr Fiona Hawke (School of Health Sciences)

We will continue to develop a clinical model to prevent foot and leg complications, including ulceration and amputation, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes, and improve cultural capability training in undergraduate podiatry students.

Dr Melinda Hutchesson (School of Health Sciences)

The student will have a specific focus on building world-first epidemiological evidence to demonstrate how modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease (e.g. diet, physical inactivity) modify the association between hypertensive pregnancies and cardiovascular health outcomes.

Dr Tessa Lord (School of Environmental and Life Sciences)

The student that takes on the research project will be studying spermatogonial stem cells as a potential tool to treat male infertility.

Dr Tracy Schumacher (School of Health Sciences)

The scholarship will allow me to continue to build a small team of focused clinical researchers to be dedicated to the prevention of chronic disease in rural areas. The candidate’s project will align with a local clinical diabetes service.

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.