UQ women create

From designing safer cities, to helping fight world hunger – UQ women are creating change every day.

For more than a century, UQ has educated and worked with outstanding people to deliver unparalleled teaching and research.

Now, more than half of UQ’s community of students and staff are women who lead the way in their industries and inspire the next generation.

Significant senior staff appointments this year include Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Bronwyn Harch, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement) Bronwyn Fredericks, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology Professor Vicki Chen, and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Professor Heather Zwicker.

UQ is also excited to be part of the national SAGE Pilot of Athena SWAN program this year. Forty-five Australian organisations, including universities and medical research and government research institutions, are involved in the program, which aims to address and improve gender equity in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) disciplines.

Contact is highlighting just some of the many UQ women who are excelling in STEMM disciplines.

Associate Professor Cynthia Riginos

School of Biological Sciences

Originally from Washington DC, Riginos joined UQ 11 years ago and researches ecological and evolutionary genetics.

She co-founded the Diversity of the Indo-Pacific Network (DIPnet), a group of more than 50 scientists from various countries who research genetic-based marine biodiversity and are committed to principles of open data and mentoring young scientists.

Riginos was thrilled to discover that she could have a career combining her passions for genetics and evolution with her original aspirations to be an ecologist, by using genetics to study ecological and evolutionary questions.

“Although I have much less time for snorkelling and diving nowadays, early morning swims off UQ’s Heron Island Research Station are highlights of my year – there is always something new and surprising to see.”

Associate Professor Cynthia Riginos

Associate Professor Cynthia Riginos

Associate Professor Irina Vetter

Deputy Director, Centre for Pain Research
Institute for Molecular Bioscience

One of Vetter’s earliest memories is reading about the discovery of penicillin.

She found the process of drug discovery fascinating and has wanted to achieve something similar ever since. Vetter’s research interests lie in the fields of peripheral pain mechanisms, target identification and analgesic drug discovery.

Irina studied Pharmacy to understand how medications interact with the body – and says there is nothing more rewarding than having a job that allows you to satisfy your curiosity about how things work; knowing at the same time that your contributions, in a small way, help make this world a better place.

“I really hope I can realise my childhood dream and develop a new drug.”

Natasha Taylor

PhD student, School of Mathematics and Physics

Taylor is nearing the end of her PhD on quantum effects inside biological systems.

She completed her undergraduate degree at the Australian National University with a double-major in theoretical physics and physics, followed by honours in quantum coherent control, researching how to use lasers to control chemical reactions.

It was discovering YouTube in high school that allowed her fascination with science to grow. A new world of education opened up, and she would spend hours learning about science and history outside of school.

“I want to use my experience of being a member of both the queer community and a woman to help make science a better and more inclusive place.”

Natasha Taylor

Natasha Taylor

“I started tutoring at age 14 and, by 15, I was tutoring students older than me in subjects I hadn’t yet taken myself.”

Carmen Gorska Putynska in UQ fire lab Carmen Gorska Putynska in UQ fire lab

Carmen Gorska Putynska

Carmen Gorska Putynska

Carmen Gorska Putynska

Carmen Gorska Putynska

Carmen Gorska Putynska

PhD student, School of Civil Engineering

Gorska Putynska is a PhD student studying self-extinguishment of cross-laminated timber and its potential uses in large structures. 

She excelled at high school – particularly in mathematics, physics and chemistry – and gained a better understanding of the subjects through her mother, who has a mathematics degree and encouraged her to look for different ways to solve problems. This influence led her to tutor older students in those subjects.  

Gorska Putynska obtained a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and was subsequently accepted into the International Master of Fire Safety Engineering program on a fully funded European Union Scholarship, giving her the opportunity to study in the UK, Belgium and Sweden in the discipline of Fire Safety Engineering.

Dr Rochelle Soo

Postdoctoral Fellow, Australian Centre for Ecogenomics, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences

Soo studies the microorganisms that live in the gut of marsupials. Originally from New Zealand, she studied Biomedical Science, Commerce and Administration at Victoria University in Wellington. 

When Soo was looking for a supervisor for her master’s degree, a professor at the University of Waikato was recommended to her. Despite not having funding to study hot spring microbiology, which Soo was most interested in, he had funding to study thermophilic soils in Mt Erebus, Antarctica. So, she packed up her life and moved for what she describes as one of the most amazing experiences of her career. 

“Sometimes someone has to shake the tree to keep science moving forward.”

“I had to decide whether I would miss out on the field work or fight the system and take my five-week old daughter with me.”

Rebecca Dunlop boxing Rebecca Dunlop boxing

Rebecca Dunlop

Rebecca Dunlop

Dr Rebecca Dunlop

Dr Rebecca Dunlop

Dr Rebecca Dunlop

Senior Lecturer, School of Veterinary Science

Originally from Ireland, Dunlop obtained her Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Environmental Biology and, by 25, had completed her PhD in fish neuroethology at Queen’s University Belfast.

She moved to Australia in 2003 and completed a postdoctoral research project on humpback whale social communication.

Outside of academia, Dunlop trains in boxing, and began competing in bouts in 2017.  

In 2014, Dunlop won a multi-million-dollar grant to determine how humpback whales responded to seismic airgun noise – this experiment was one of the biggest and most complex to have ever taken place in large whale behavioural response studies.

She had just given birth to her first child and pushed hard to have her join her when she was five weeks old.

Seeing Rebecca successfully juggling motherhood and a successful career in STEM was a powerful message to the many women involved in the project who are just starting their STEM careers.

Professor Avril Robertson

Biotechnology Program Director, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences

Originally from Scotland, Robertson had severe asthma as a child and also experiences anaphylaxis. She attributes the difference therapeutics made to her life, and the desire to improve the health of others, as the reasons she pursued a career in drug discovery and teaching.

After initially struggling at school due to missed days, Avril found a passion for swimming, which over time helped her to build strength and fitness, which in turn increased her academic confidence – in particular chemistry, which she excelled at.

She spent 10 years working in industrial chemistry and senior drug discovery roles before taking up research and teaching at UQ.

“I can clearly recall the first time I took Ventolin and how much this drug benefited my life. The thought that my research and teaching could ultimately improve the health of others is one of my primary motivations.”

Dr Liza O'Moore

Dr Liza O'Moore

Dr Liza O’Moore

Senior Lecturer, School of Civil Engineering

O’Moore came to UQ from an all-girls high school in 1983 to find herself one of 12 women in a cohort of 260.

She completed her undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering and later returned to UQ to undertake a PhD in high-performance concrete.

While she certainly wasn’t the first woman working in the industry in the 80s, there were instances where the lack of women in the field were evident – when completing her first ever site inspection for a project she was designing there were no female toilets on the site, so she had to drive to the nearest fast food outlet.

O’Moore accepted an academic position at UQ 17 years ago and teaches Engineering and Civil Engineering while researching concrete design and structures.

“I was the first engineer in the office to have a baby, so a colleague and I had to write the maternity leave policy.”

“Dermatology had not allowed anyone to train part-time or job-share in Queensland before me. Since then, there have been at least five who have taken advantage of a more flexible training program.”

Dr Erin McMeniman with patient Dr Erin McMeniman with patient

Dr Erin McMeniman

Dr Erin McMeniman

Dr Erin McMeniman

Deputy Director, Dermatology Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital
Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine

McMeniman is a private-practice dermatologist and a visiting specialist at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. She is also completing her PhD part-time within the Faculty of Medicine at UQ, studying genetic associations of multiple primary melanoma.

Erin completed her undergraduate medical degree and subsequent Master of Public Health with a dissertation project in skin diseases in indigenous children at UQ. Erin conducts annual outreach visits to remote Indigenous communities in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

She attended St John’s College at UQ while studying and met a fabulous bunch of motivated women with feminist perspectives, and incredible strength, who were a career-saving influence back then.

Erin completed her advanced training in dermatology in Queensland and was awarded a fellowship of the Australasian College of Dermatology.

Erin believes in the importance of a healthy work-life balance and enjoys sports like rowing, swimming, running and cycling.

Dr Erin McMeniman

Dr Erin McMeniman

Isobella Stone

PhD candidate, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences

Stone is a PhD Candidate in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences. She completed her undergraduate degree at UQ in Chemistry and Chemical Biology, earning First Class Honours.

While completing her undergraduate degree Isobella was heavily involved in Oaktree, a voluntary organisation of young people fighting to end extreme poverty. She served as Secretary and President of the UQ Oaktree society, and as an Outreach Organiser for Oaktree QLD.

Isobella is currently President of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) Young Chemists Group QLD.

She is also passionate about promoting science to a wider audience on social media – and you can follow Isobella on Twitter ( @isobellasjs) and Instagram ( @isobellasjs) where she regularly shares her scientific interests and connects with other young scientists.

“I’ve had great mentors at UQ who have always encouraged me to strive for my goals.”

Read more about women at UQ who are pushing boundaries in all fields on the Small Change blog.

Then visit the UQ Women page to meet more outstanding UQ women working to create equality, while saving threatened species, finding cures for diseases, and leading the way in engineering and construction.

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