As Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Project Manager, Dr Melanie Farrier is leading a team that has made significant progress in advancing key actions toward gender equity within the Department of Defence’s Science and Technology Group.
Intrigued by a Flinders University presentation about nanotechnology, Dr Melanie Farrier (BSc(Hons) ’16, PhD(Chem) ’20) was inspired to embrace a new field of science and has now emerged as a powerful advocate for gender equity in science.
“I wanted to learn more about this up-and-coming area of science, and Flinders was the only South Australian university that offered Nanotechnology as a degree,” says Melanie. “It proved a very wise choice.”
She has learned that inspiration comes from unlikely places, often unlocked by unexpected opportunities.
During the third year of her studies Melanie’s Polymer Science class visited a local car manufacturer, producing car parts using polymers. She says, “Seeing how science met manufacturing was really eye-opening, where the theoretical concepts met with a practical and tangible application.”
Later, as part of her PhD, Melanie spent three months in Japan, working with other researchers and ultimately learning a technique for making polymer bandages that she brought back to her research group at Flinders.
“My Flinders degree taught me to think critically and to look outside the box for more innovative solutions – especially in leading change within an organisation.”
While studying at Flinders, Melanie was outreach officer for the student science club and a keen member in the STEM: Women Branching Out group. Now, within the Department of Defence, she has set up an Implementation Team made up of STEM professionals and corporate staff to meet Defence Science and Technology Group’s gender equity goals.
Melanie says the influence of her mother and leading Australian women in science – Michelle Simmons, Emma Johnston, Tanya Monro and Caroline McMillen – have all inspired her career in science.
Her aim is to show others how they can succeed in science and be leaders themselves.
“I want to continue influencing science in Australia to be more inclusive and diverse,” she says. “I hope that through my actions, I will inspire more women and girls to study science.”
Dr Melanie Farrier was awarded a 2020 Early Career Researcher Award for her significant contribution to the scientific community through research and advocacy, particularly for promoting equity within the STEM community.