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  • Dr Onisha Patel (L), Professor Asha Rao (C) and Dr Devika Kamath (R). (SBS)
Superstars of STEM program aims at breaking society’s gender stereotypes about scientists and increasing the visibility of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
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2 Jan 2019 - 5:37 PM  UPDATED 4 Jan 2019 - 2:47 PM

When people imagine a scientist, more often than not it sparks an image of a man in a drab white lab coat perhaps holding a test tube.

But now Science and Technology Australia (STA)- a peak technology body wants to break through these gender stereotypes and encourage more women to consider science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees through its ‘Superstars of STEM’ program.

To achieve that, STA has shortlisted 60 Australian female scientists as role models for the second round of the program.

Among those handpicked are three Indian-origin women-Onisha Patel, Devika Kamath and Asha Rao for their outstanding contributions to science.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the launch of the new group of ambassadors will go a long way in promoting gender equity in STEM.

“Increasing the public visibility of women role models is key to changing cultural attitudes and inspiring more young women and girls to study, work and champion gender equity in STEM,” Ms Andrews said in a press statement.                                                                                                                                                                    

Dr Onisha Patel is a structural biologist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) in Melbourne who studies how proteins function inside human bodies and use that information to design potential new treatments for cancer.

Born in Ahmedabad in the western Indian state of Gujarat, Dr Patel moved to Australia in 1998 in lieu of better opportunities.

Outside her profession, Dr Patel is equally passionate about using art as a medium to promote science communication and education amongst students.                                                                                                       

 

Professor Asha Rao is a cyber mathematics expert who specialises in information security.

She started her career as an Associate Lecturer in 1992 is currently the Associate Dean of Mathematical Sciences within the School of Science at RMIT University. 

A passionate teacher, Professor Rao believes the gender gap in STEM degrees does exist and attributes most of it to societal pressure and expectations.                                                                                                                         

Dr Devika Kamath is an Astrophysicist and Lecturer in Astronomy & Astrophysics at Macquarie University whose observational research in the field of dying stars and their implications on the origin of elements in the Universe is recognised across the globe.

Born in Coimbatore in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the 32-year-old scientist confessed she was always fascinated by stars.

Dr Kamath who moved to Australia to explore wider horizons now wants to be a torchbearer for young Indian aspirants who like her are keen to touch the skies.

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