Santa Maria College: Women of Science

Santa Maria College female Science teachers

Did you know that in cutting-edge fields such as artificial intelligence, only one in five professionals (22%) is a woman?

International Day of Women and Girls in Science is marked on 11 February each year. With there still being a significant gender gap at all levels in science, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science seeks to educate on these issues and to celebrate the achievements of women in science.

At Santa Maria College, in Years 11 and 12, 70% of all students have chosen to study at least one Science subject and one-third of these students study two. The most popular Science subject at the College is Human Biology (ATAR) followed by Chemistry (ATAR).

Within our own Science Learning Area, there are 18 staff members, and 12 of these are women, teaching across all areas of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Human Biology.

In honour of the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we asked our female science teachers and technicians to share what they love most about science. Here’s what they had to say.

I love Science because it satisfies our curiosity about the world. It allows us to ask questions, explore phenomena, and seek answers to mysteries. Science provides a systematic way of understanding the natural world. It helps us to make sense of complex processes and phenomena. Science also fosters a sense of connection and awe for the natural world. It reminds us of our place in the universe and the interconnectedness of all living things. Science inspires wonder and appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the cosmos, from the intricate structure of a cell to the vastness of the universe.
Ailsa Harris, Head of Science

I love science because it makes a real difference in our lives. It’s not just about theories; it’s about creating solutions and pushing boundaries. Science has transformed medicine, technology, and our everyday experiences. The constant pursuit of knowledge leads to ground-breaking discoveries, sparking curiosity and amazement. What excites me most is the practical side of science – doing experiments in a lab, finding real-world solutions. It’s this mix of real impact, innovation, and hands-on engagement that fuels my passion. It’s not just about understanding the world; it’s about actively contributing to it.
Marissa Gangemi, Science Teacher

I love how even though we have so many answers in science, there is still so much that we do not know and understand. I love how we are still discovering more about the natural world every day. I love how science can help us to make sense of the world and to help us see the bigger picture.
Lisa Shelley, Science Teacher

Science fascinates me because it has provided me with the means to understand the world around us. I enjoy the process of questioning, experimenting, and analysing as it challenges me to think critically. I particularly enjoy how chemistry has provided me with opportunities to be creative and explains  challenges the world faces on a molecular level. I was inspired to teach chemistry based on my personal experience, where I was the only girl in my research laboratory. I feel that women have so much to offer in these fields and am grateful that I have the opportunity to nurture their interests in science as mine was.
Elena Comninos, Science Teacher

My passion has always been biology. I grew up in the Northwest, where as kids, we spent all our time exploring the bush, camping, birdwatching, roaming the mud flats and fishing in the mangroves. Harry Butler was my favourite naturalist on TV, followed by the inspirational David Attenborough. In my early years of teaching, I was fortunate to attend lectures by Professor Peter Klinken AC, WA Chief Scientist, who was educating teachers in the field of biotechnology. This field of biological science has been inspiring to me and has been paving the way forward in medical research ever since. 
Jo Priest, Science Teacher

I was always inquisitive as a young child and science helped me make sense of the things around me. My love for science continued to blossom in my formative years growing up in Denver, Colorado, when I joined the early morning science club. This hour was full of the most fascinating and fun experiments you could think of, which helped cement my love for science early. As I grew into adulthood, I continued to follow my curiosity-based science path by studying biomedical science, focusing on research that requires a creative mind that works perfectly with my overthinking brain. 
Ashleigh Gibbs, Technician

I love science due to its perpetual fountain of new knowledge and endless avenues for exploration, making it an ideal playground for the inquisitive mind. It’s seamless integration into every facet of our existence underscores its indispensability. Science embodies a thrilling amalgamation of fun, fascination, creativity, and boundless excitement.
Sally Nettleton, Technician

Science for me is a continuous wellspring of curiosity and discovery. There is always something new to be explored. What captivates me is the ability of science to unlock the mysteries of the universe and offer explanations of phenomena both minute and vast, from the smallest subatomic particles to the cosmos. Engaging with scientific concepts is both fascinating and stimulating. It affords the opportunity for analysis, critical thinking, and exploration. Scientific understanding and collaboration give us the opportunity to solve both simple and complex problems and allow us to tackle the challenges of the present and future. Science underpins the progress of modern society. I love empowering girls to think creatively, ask questions, and explore new ideas through science. By encouraging girls to pursue STEM subjects and career pathways, we are cultivating the next generation of innovators and problem solvers. 
Charmaine Samuels, Science Teacher

I love science because it allows us to find out why things work the way they do. Science is ever-changing with new discoveries and technologies, and this ignites my curiosity and interest in everything that happens in our world.
Donna Chong, Science Teacher

I love the way that science can explain the way the world works. As a very curious person who never grew out of asking “But why?” I love that science holds (most of) the answers. From the complex processes occurring within the human body that keep us alive, to how planes fly, why we see rainbows, the chemistry of cooking, how some of our incredible creatures came to exist and the physics involved in sports! To be able to share that wonder with others, especially girls and young women, is very special.
Chloe Sherwin, Science Teacher

I love that science inspires a sense of curiosity and wonder, driving us to ask questions and seek answers about the world around us. I value the inquiry-driven nature of science and have always been drawn to understanding the practical application of scientific knowledge in real-life scenarios. I love how science provides an opportunity to explore the intricate mechanisms of human anatomy and physiology. The scientific discoveries and applications which have been made due to this exploratory process have had a positive impact on billions of people’s health and wellbeing. For example, the pioneering work done by Dr Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren on the bacterium Helicobacter pylori has helped improve the health of many people living with peptic ulcers worldwide. The application of scientific discoveries that help to improve people’s lives is what I love most about science.
Lauren Thompson, Science Teacher

I love science because it helps me explore and understand the complexities of the world, offering a continuous journey of discovery. I am excited to see science everywhere in our daily lives. It has sparked a passion for lifelong learning in me as I encounter new scientific facts that astound me every day. Whether it is the revelation of new species or insights into a particular organism’s survival strategies in specific habitats, the intricate ways it defends itself or captures prey – each discovery captivates me. From the intriguing dances of exotic birds to attract mates to the systematic arrangement of the periodic table, science never ceases to amaze me. I value the opportunity to both learn and teach about our extraordinary world through the lens of science. Julianne Haggerty, Science Teacher

As we continue to nurture and inspire our students to pursue their passions in science, we recognise the importance of fostering an inclusive environment where everyone feels empowered to explore, question, and contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of scientific knowledge. Together, we stand committed to championing diversity and excellence in STEM education, ensuring that science remains vibrant and inclusive for generations of Santa Maria women to come.

What A Term! So Many Opportunities – Jennifer Oaten

As I look back on the past nine weeks, I am so grateful for who we are as a community and what we have achieved. Through the dedication of our staff and the enthusiasm of our students, we have established new connections, immersed ourselves in opportunities and worked through challenges.

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