Griffith’s women in science share their passion

PhD candidate Barbara Hadley is a finalist in FameLab
PhD candidate Barbara Hadley is a finalist in FameLab

Barbara Hadley has been a professional snooker player, a private investigator and a chief toilet cleaner in the Greek Islands.

You name the job and she’s done it. But the 51-year-old has happily given it all away to return to university to study science. And it’s all in the name of “making a difference”.

“I’ve done so many things in my life, but I’ve always had a fascination with the human body and just how amazing it is,” she said.

“For me I decided it was time to give back to the community. To make your life worthwhile I believe you have to give and make other people happy.”

Today Barbara, a PhD candidate with the Institute for Glycomics, dreams of helping find a cure for cancer, through her research which explores the sugar structures on a cell which transports cancer throughout the body.

Barbara will present her research during the FameLab Queensland Semi-Final on March 9 at the Queensland Museum as part of World Science Festival activities.

FameLab is designed to inspire, motivate and develop young scientists and engineers to actively engage with the public and stakeholders and to share their passion about the science industry.

Barbara isn’t the only female scientist making a difference at Griffith University.

As part of International Women’s Day 2016, Griffith is taking you behind the scenes to discover what really drives our researchers and to show that science is more than just test tubes and lab coats.

Join the conversation and tell us what motivates your via #WomenInSTEM and #IInternationalWomensDay

See more about how Griffith celebrated International Women’s Day.

Griffith Health honoured as part of International Women’s Day.

The passion behind science

Dr Lara Herrero, Research Leader, Institute for Glycomics

Dr Herrero started researching Ross River virus after she contracted the debilitating illness herself. She recently received $419,180 in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for her new research project titled, ‘The role of glycans in arboviral disease; from immunomodulation to glycotherapeutic treatment strategies.

“I love that I can make a difference in the world through my research on mosquite-borne viruses,” she said.

Catherine Pickering
Catherine Pickering

Professor Catherine Pickering, Griffith School of Environment

Professor Pickering is often out and about assessing the impact of hiking and mountain biking on sensitive plant communities. She was also behind the successful app GrowsAtGriffith.

“Helping us to enjoy and conserve the naturalenvironment is what motivates me each day,” she said.


Dr Caryl Bosman, Discipline Head of Urban and Environment Planning.

Dr Bosman is current researching the impacts of an ageing population in various urban and environmental planning contexts, specifically housing, travel and social health.

“Studio teaching is fun and practical,” she said. “We work with real planning concerns to achieve happier, healthier and ecologically sustainable living environment.”


Associate Professor Katherine Andrews, Head of the Tropical Parasitology Lab, Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery.

Associate Professor Andrews is currently working with the SCIRO and the Medicines for Malaria Venture to discover new drugs to prevent malaria.

“The most enjoyable part of my job is teaching enthusiastic students state-of-the-art skills in infectious diseaseresearch,” she said.

Joan Vaccaro, Associate Professor, Centre for Quantum Dynamics

Associate Professor Vaccaro is researching the quantum nature of time and the origin of dynamics.

“I love solving puzzles and mysteries, especially those that lead to the discovery of new things about Nature,” she said.


Associate Professor Francesca Iacopi, Future Fellow, Australian Research Council​ and Griffith’s Micro-and Nanotechnology Centre

Associate Professor Iacopi plays an important role in shaping the future of science, innovation, economic development and jobs in Queensland through her position on the Advance Queensland Expert Panel. Her research area is with biosensing and graphene.

“I love being able to understand and apply Nanotechnology to practical problems and helping educate younger generations,” she said.


Larissa Dirr
Larissa Dirr

Larissa Dirr, Research Scientist, Institute for Glycomics

Larissa has been working on a treatment for human parainfluenza virus by researching how it is released from infected cells.
“I love to discover things no one has experienced before,” she said.


Professor Sally-Ann Poulsen, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery

Research led by Professor Poulsen is being widely credited as anticipation builds over the potential of saccharin in the fight against cancer. There is growing excitement about the development of drugs capitalising on the anti-cancer properties of the popular sugar substitute.

“I enjoy the creativity involved in applying modern chemistry approaches to develop new chemical probes that contribute to understanding complex biology associated with cancer and infectious disease,” she said.


Dr Kate Seib, Research Leader, Institute for Glycomics

Dr Seib is part of a team of researcher who have received more than $1 million to find new vaccine targets for diseases which cause meningitis, gonorrhoea and middle ear infections.

“I enjoy the challenge of solving puzzles, and knowing that our discoveries could one day improve people’s health,” she said.


Aimee Tan, Postdoctoral research scientist, Institute for Glycomics

Amiee’s research explores a genetic regulator found in bacteria that cause meningococcal disease or otitis media (middle ear infections). She is trying to determine how this switch works, and whether it links to the way disease manifests in people.

My job is basically problem solving, and the problems are always new. Day-to-day, they might be small in scale, but the big picture — how diseases work andchange— is absolutely fascinating.”


Michele Burford
Michele Burford

Michele Burford, Executive Deputy Director, Australian Rivers Institute

Michele’s research aims to improve the predictability of glue green algae (cyanobacteria) to develop more tools to efficiently and effectively measure its toxins in waterbodies.

“The most enjoyable part of my job is having the opportunity to undertake challenging, innovative and practically orientated research with industry and researchers around Australia,” she said.


Dr Freda Jen, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute for Glycomics

Dr Jen is currently trying o understand the mechanism of howNeisseria meningitidiscauses deadly meningococcal disease and howNeisseria gonorrhoeaecauses venereal gonorrhoea disease.

“I enjoy looking for solutions that can help the world to treat or prevent diseases,” she said.


Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik, Professor of Immunology and Research Leader for the National Centre for Neuroimmunologyand Emerging Diseases.

Professor Marshall-Gradisnik is part of a research team shed light on the potential cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis by developing a screening test.

My work is about being a detective,” she said. “Testing a hypothesis andworkingout if it is correct or not.”

“Importantly, knowing your research is making a difference to people who have CFS as it is not only providing scientific evidence to the origin of this illness.”


Susan Bengtson Nash
Susan Bengtson Nash

Dr Susan Bengtson Nash, Associate Professor and Group Leader, Griffith School of Environment is looking at the long-term energetic health of humpback whales, and relating findings to climate indicators in the Antarctic.

“I love the capacity science gives you to pursue ideas that inspire you,” she said.