Vibrant designs brighten coats at 2020 challenge

Staff and students gathered in the Flinders University Plaza on 11 March 2020 for the annual Lab Coat Challenge, celebrating International Women’s Day (8 March) and women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine.

A ‘decorate your lab coat’ challenge was included for the first time in the event’s five-year history, which was embraced by students who created fabulous designs in record time for the chance to win one of four $50 gift cards.

Physics student Shahin Javadifar took out the best STEM decorated lab coat with his depiction of Margaret Hamilton of NASA fame (retired), with Kate Lawrence the second winner in that category, which was open for students from the College of Science and Engineering.

Professor Karen Burke da Silva with Shahin Javadifar and his winning design

Caroline Shi and Jessica Newbury won the STEMM category (for medicine students) with their colourful designs.

Organised by Flinders’ STEM Women Branching Out group and expertly hosted this year by student Sophie Rapagna and FUSA representative Benika Bhoola, guests heard from Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling and key note speaker Dr Carmen da Silva.

Dr da Silva, a recent Flinders University graduate, is now working as a post-doctoral researcher at Monash University and set to take up an exciting new role in the United States. Her key interest is around the adaption of animals to their environment, which she shared in her talk together with insights into the barriers women face and words of advice for students and researchers.

Dr Carmen da Silva (left) and Professor Maria Parappilly

Fresh popcorn was popular, given out ahead of the screening of the movie Calculating Ada: The Countess of Computing on the University’s big screen. The documentary shares Ada Lovelace’s remarkable life as a 19th century countess whose work helped give rise to the modern era of computing.

Flinders University’s Lab Coat Challenge event is unique in Australia and possibly the world, seeking to gather the highest number of people wearing lab coats in the one place in support of gender equity. A total of 146 people participated in the 2020 event.

The 2020 Lab Coat Challenge crowd
Sophie Rapagna (left) and Benika Bhoola did an outstanding job as event MCs, with Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling during his speech
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