Celebrating women in science and technology

Categorised: INSPIRE, News

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated each year on 11 February.

Currently, women represent only 27% of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) workforce in Australia and fewer than one in five ICT (Information and Communications Technology) professionals is a woman (19%). Globally, female students’ enrolment is particularly low in ICT (3%), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5%) and in engineering, manufacturing and construction (8%).

Today, be inspired as we dive deep into Dr Bettina Berger’s career to celebrate women in science and technology.

Dr Berger is the Scientific Director of The Plant Accelerator, Australia’s first automated imaging-based phenotyping system. The Plant Accelerator is an integral part of the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF).

One of Bettina’s key jobs as the Scientific Director, is to help researchers design their projects and experiments to measure plant performance in a greenhouse and out in the field. Bettina says that the best part of her job is the diversity. She works with scientists at all stages of their career, from students to senior researchers.

“I might work on a project studying salinity tolerance in wheat one moment and the next day, help a student design a project for the use of aquaponics waste water in horticulture. The diversity is what keeps my job interesting and exciting, but most of all, it’s the people I am able to work with along the way,” Bettina said.

Understanding the value of data and the importance of data annotation, management and sharing is another important part of Bettina’s job.

“The Australian Research Data Commons has been instrumental in educating researchers like myself. We still have some way to go in adopting best practice and Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable data principles across the sector, and it’s good to know the ARDC will support us,” Bettina said.

Not only is she a renowned expert in her field of research, has a Doctor of Philosophy in Plant Molecular Biology and a Masters of Science, she is also leading the way for women in science and encouraging the next generation of young girls to follow in her footsteps.

When I started at university, some people tried to discourage me and told me career options for biologists were limited. All I knew was that I was passionate about science and I continue to be so to this day. Whatever career you choose, if others discourage you, don’t lose faith in yourself.

“There are so many options, so many different paths you can take with a STEM background, anything from science communication, pharmaceutical industry to patent law. You can even become leader of a country, Germany’s Chancellor is a female scientist,” Bettina said.

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