Dr Parwinder Kaur has been shortlisted as one of Australia’s 2021-2022 “Superstars of STEM” for her work saving endangered animals by researching their DNA. The biotechnologist from The University of Western Australia believes this great honour will propel her career and help young women pursue careers similar to hers.
Kaur, who is of Indian heritage, said she was humbled to be recognised amongst the top 60 women in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She has received this honour for leading DNA Zoo Australia at UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment by mapping genomes of threatened animals. The Associate Professor has also co-authored over 50 publications in peer-reviewed journals and supervises five doctorate students.
Not only will her work support and improve Australia’s biodiversity and conservation, but her research could also even help with COVID-19 testing. Kaur, concerning COVID-19 research, has stated: “We are hopeful that we can potentially use this genomic information, both for the diagnostic testing of patients and to enable a better understanding of the virus.” She went on to say: “I am hopeful that our research would be vital in designing new treatments and can also potentially transform the way we manage this infectious disease in the future.”
The UWA Associate Professor is also a firm believer that increasing the number of females in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers is vital. She has stated that the emotional intelligence woman can bring to these fields is becoming increasingly important in leading the next technological revolution.
During 2018 and 2019, it is reported that 87% of boys in years 9 and 10 were considering a career in the STEM field. This far outweighs the 50% of girls who consider undertaking a career in the discipline. Ms Kaur has stated that this difference needs to be eliminated and believes the “Superstars of STEM” awards will encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM fields.
The programme, which is operated by Science and Technology Australia and supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, aims to do exactly that by breaking through the gender stereotypes in the STEM field. The programme hopes to encourage girls to aspire to enter an exciting STEM career by increasing women’s visibility in the industry.
According to the STA website: “Over five years we will have equipped 150 women working in STEM with advanced communication skills and provided them with genuine opportunities to use these skills – in the media, on the stage and in speaking with decision-makers.”
Amongst the 60 women selected for the “Superstars of STEM” program are two of Kaur’sKaur’s UWA colleagues – Dr Sabine Bellstedt, from the UWA node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and Dr Jessica Buck, from UWA’sUWA’s Centre for Child Health Research and Telethon Kids Institute.