Athena SWAN

SBMS is a large and academically diverse school, but like many organisations in STEM, it faces challenges in recruiting, retaining, and supporting a diverse group of academics, professional staff, and students.  The school’s Equity and Diversity Committee is responsible for our efforts to improve this, particularly as it pertains to underrepresented minorities, women, and people with disabilities.  We aim for circumspect and equitable policies and practices, for awareness of the biases and social practices that present obstacles to equity, and for a culture that supports all of our staff and students.

School of Biomedical Sciences Seminar and Symposium Policy

The School  hosts a range of seminars throughout the year. These seminars cover a broad range of topics that are of interest to the School. Traditionally, the selection of seminar speakers was done based on the recommendations by the academics within the School, which is in turn based on their networks and new research collaborations within their laboratories. Furthermore, some seminars during the year are given by PhD students and postdoctoral fellows within the School itself.

Why? “It is critical for the future of science that young women and men can see real evidence that scientists can succeed regardless of gender. So, if we are going to encourage women into careers in science we need also to provide role models for them to aspire to. We need to show that being a woman and being a successful scientist are not mutually exclusive. One way of doing that is to give women scientists a platform to present their research. If we don't address gender balance in speaker programs, we will continue to normalise a gendered stereotype of scientific leadership. Then when crunch time comes, women will continue to leave in far greater numbers than men [6]–[9] in part because they see no path ahead for themselves. And that means scientific research potentially loses half of its brightest talent.

Moreover, a speaking invitation contributes enormously to the profile of a researcher. By extending more invitations to women and other under-represented sections of the academic community, we provide a boost to their visibility and their track record. This will help them to progress by raising their national and international profile and help support their applications for grants, academic positions, and fellowships.

Finally, conferences and symposia are great ways of generating new collaborations, new ideas, and new directions in science. If we keep inviting the same people, and the same types of people, over and over again, we limit the diversity of thought and, potentially, the opportunities for innovation.” PLoS Comput Biol. 2014 doi:  10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003903 Ten Simple Rules to Achieve Conference Speaker Gender Balance Jennifer L. Martin*

In light of this, the Equity and Diversity Committee would like to work in collaboration with the School’s seminar and symposium coordinators to see how the selection of the seminar topics, invitation of speakers etc. could be improved to address the equity and diversity issues. While the longer-term goals of this collaboration may also see the inclusion of geographically diverse speakers, and a broader range of seminar topics (such as those of interest to, the teaching-focussed staff of the School, including seminars presented by those staff of the School), the first priority the Equity and Diversity Committee would like to address in this space is the gender equity. Specifically, we aim to implement by the year 2017, a 50:50 gender ratio for speakers for the School seminars. This may include both internal and external speakers. The same ratio would be expected for any School-held symposium (whether scientific, or HDR focussed) and, over time, for public lectures.

The SBMS Executive endorsed this policy on the 9th June 2016.

Meet the E&D Committee

A/Prof. Ethan Scott, Chair

Ethan Scott received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he studied molecular genetics. After this, he moved to Stanford University, where he completed his Ph.D. in neuroscience. This work was based around developing genetic approaches for studying nervous system structure and function, focusing on the visual system. As a postdoc at the University of California – San Francisco, he adapted these techniques to the small vertebrate model system of zebrafish. His lab at the University of Queensland extends this work, using advanced microscopy and optogenetics to study sensory circuits and the ways in which the brain integrates information across different senses. The resulting work has been published in journals including Science, Nature, Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, and Nature Methods. Beyond research, Ethan teaches into courses on genetics and neuroscience, and he developed his school’s capstone course, an open-ended guided research experience aimed at teaching 3rd year undergraduates fundamental research skills including experimental design, statistical rigor, and critical thinking.  Ethan is a member of the Faculty of Medicine's Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. He is also a member of UQ’s Self Assessment Team for the Science Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot of Athena SWAN, where her chairs the Career Development Working Party.


Dr. Sherry Wu

Sherry Wu joined UQ School of Biomedical Sciences as a Senior Lecturer in December, 2017. Following completion of her PhD training at UQ in 2010, she was recruited to Johns Hopkins University for postdoctoral training in cancer imaging. In 2011, she was then selected for the prestigious Translational Research in Multi-Disciplinary Program (TRIUMPH) Fellowship at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC). Over the last seven years, she has worked extensively as a cancer researcher with expertise in nanomedicine and cancer biology. She has strong knowledge in target discovery using large-scale experimental and patient databases, in vitro and in vivo validation models, nanotechnology, and molecular biology techniques for studying mechanisms of action and resistance. Her research focuses on: 1) Developing strategies to overcome immunosuppression in ovarian cancer; 2) Developing novel biomimetic nanoparticle platforms for tumour-targeted delivery; and 3) Use of non-coding RNAs for cancer treatment. As a female early/mid-career scientist, Sherry has a particular interest in developing strategies to retain highly talented female researchers in academia. In addition, she is interested in fostering the awareness of diversity of multiculturalism within SBMS.


Ms. Sarah Piper

Sarah is a Research Development Officer at SBMS, currently on secondment as Core Facilities Project Manager with the Faculty of Medicine, and has worked at UQ on and off for seven years. As a non-Australian female, Sarah has a personal interest in both equity and diversity. Her contributions to the committee have included organisation of the International Women’s Day event co-hosted by SBMS, the Faculty of Medicine, and the Queensland Brain Institute.



A/Prof. Mark Bellingham

Mark Bellingham is the head of the neurobiology of motor behavior laboratory.  He received a Bachelor of Veterinary Science with Honours from the University of Sydney in 1983, and a PhD in Neuroscience from the John Curtin School of Medical Research at ANU in 1990.  After postdoctoral research at Goettingen University in Germany, and the University of Washington in the USA, he returned to Australia as an ARC QEII Research Fellow in 1996, and moved to the University of Queensland as a Senior Lecturer in 2000.  His research is focused on the neuromotor control system and its disorders.  He is particularly interested in the regulation of respiratory motor neuron activity, and in the causes and potential treatments of neurodegenerative disorders of motor control, including motor neurone disease, inherited ataxias, and autistic spectrum disorder.  His laboratory carries out electrophysiological recordings from motor neurons and other central neurons involved in the regulation of movement, to study synaptic transmission and ionic currents regulating neuron activity in health and disease.


Dr. Prasad Chunduri

Prasad Chunduri is a Teaching-Focussed lecturer in the School of Biomedical Sciences. He coordinates, and teaches into, several physiology courses, especially the first year cohorts - where the student pool is generally very large and diverse. Within the Equity & Diversity Committee, Prasad’s specific interests relate to providing better support for students and staff with disability. He is also a member of the School’s Teaching & Learning Committee.