2022 Meet a Scientist event

The Royal Women’s Hospital’s virtual ‘Meet a Scientist’ event which was held on Friday 11th February inspired hundreds of senior school students giving them an insight into the world of being clinicians and researchers in the fields of fertility, obstetrics, microbiology and neonatology. Dr Sarah Lensen, Dr Clare Whitehead and Dr Kate Hodgson from the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology along with Prisha Balgovind from the Centre for Women's Infectious Diseases group lead by Prof Suzanne Garland shared their unique journeys into science careers.

“In high school it’s so easy to think that you need to be on a timeline, or follow a checklist of accomplishments,” said Prisha Balgovind, one of four specialists from the Women’s to share their journey and encourage more girls to take up science careers.

The annual ‘Meet a Scientist’ event, marked on International Day of Women and Girls in Science, centred on four top female researchers – Prisha Balgovind, Dr Sarah Lensen, Dr Clare Whitehead and Dr Kate Hodgson. Each detailed their journeys from high school to tertiary study, and the varied paths that led them to the Women’s.

“Science is such a broad field, and there are endless options to choose from. I ended up in microbiology, and research, which I find very fulfilling and exciting,” said Prisha, who is part of the Centre for Women's Infectious Diseases at the Women’s, and the National Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Monitoring Program.

Dr Lensen, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Research Fellow, part of the Women’s Gynaecology Research Centre, detailed her day-to-day life as a reproductive specialist, helping women fall pregnant through IVF. Sarah has worked in a range of medical and research roles, and is adamant you don’t need to know right away what career path you want to take.

“Don’t be afraid to change your mind. I changed my mind a whole bunch of times along the way and I love my job now – being part of people’s journey to becoming parents,” she said.

Obstetrics and COVID-19 was the focus for Dr Whitehead, Senior Research Fellow, from the Women’s Pregnancy Research Centre,  who mirrored Dr Lensen’s sentiment.

“I think it’s important to recognise that detours are not a bad thing. Doing things differently from your peers can actually be key, you really don’t need to do what everyone else is doing,” she said.

“I get to work with research scientists like Prisha, as well as mathematicians and other specialists. In addition to clinical projects, the Women’s is a very exciting place to work.

“A job with many hats is very stimulating, while it can be a juggle it keeps you engaged and interested.”

Dr Hodgson, who helps to treat and save the lives of newborn babies and is part of the Women’s Newborn Research Centre and is a PhD student in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, also encouraged female students to dream big, and think broadly if they want to work in the STEM field.

“I feel very fortunte to work at the Women’s, where there’s a large collaborative team that works to solve some of the big problems in medicine, right here in Melbourne,” she said.

“My advice to you all is to consider a career in science or medicine, and to remember there is plenty of time to work our exactly what that will look like.”

Student at Pascoe Vale Girls College, Zehra Altindal, was one of the hundreds of virtual attendees from around 50 Victorian high schools.

“The ‘Meet a Scientist’ talks were really exciting after such a long time in lockdown. I feel like it’s very empowering for women in the biomedical field to share their achievements like this, and encourage girls like me to follow my dreams,” she said.

“I've always had a love for science studies and medicine. In the near future I hope to pursue a career in medicine and become a neurosurgeon. I love the complexities of how the brain works and would love to make a difference in the world.”

Watch the full event here.

Text provided from The Royal Women’s Hospital