World IP Day this year is celebrating the contribution of women whose discoveries, creativity and innovative drive are shaping our world.
The World Intellectual Property Organization says: “The important and inspiring contributions of countless women around the globe are powering change in our world. Their “can do” attitude is an inspiration to us all. And their remarkable achievements are an invaluable legacy for young girls today with aspirations to become the inventors and creators of tomorrow.”
With that in mind, below, in no particular order, are 10 Australian women whose achievements and promise Griffith Hack would like to celebrate.
A quantum physicist who is this year’s Australian of the Year. She heads the Centre for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology and is a Scientia Professor of Physics at the University of New South Wales. Professor Simmons and her team were the first in the world to develop a transistor from a single atom and the world’s thinnest wire – only four atoms wide and one atom high. She and her team are working towards developing quantum computers capable of solving problems in minutes that would normally take many years.
Elizabeth Blackburn was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for co-discovering telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes the telomere. A telomere is a region of repetitive DNA at the end of a chromosome which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration. In 2007 Time magazine included her in its list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Born in Hobart, Tasmania, Blackburn studied biochemistry at the University of Melbourne and furthered her studies in England and the US, where she now lives.
A best-selling children’s author and educator, Fox wrote the much-loved Australian children’s book Possum Magic while she was studying children’s literature at Flinders University, Adelaide, while a mature age student. She has written more than 40 children’s books which have been published around the world. She was Associate Professor, Literary Studies, at Flinders University until she retired in 1996, but continues to speak at conferences and events around the world advocating the importance of reading aloud to children.
Burns expert Professor Fiona Wood is widely recognised for the pioneering treatment known as “spray on skin”. Developed with scientist Marie Stoner, the world-first technology delivers skin cell clusters to burns via an aerosol, instead of the usual method of cultured skin sheets. The treatment came to prominence in the aftermath of the 2002 Bali terrorist bombings, when victims were evacuated to Royal Perth Hospital, where Professor Wood was the burns specialist. Spray on skin has since been used on more than 1000 burns patients around the world. Professor Wood was born in England, moved to Australia in 1987 and was named Australian of the Year in 2005.
A world-leading expert in photonics, Professor Tanya Monro’s research is focused on sensing, lasers and new classes of optical fibres. Her PhD thesis on how light could change the density of glass and its own path of travel saw her win the Bragg Gold Medal for best Physics PhD in Australia in 1998. She is the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation and an ARC Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellow at the University of South Australia and was the inaugural Director of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing at the University of Adelaide.
Geneticist Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea is a senior research officer and team leader at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute where her primary focus is developing cell and gene therapies and identifying therapeutic targets for Friedreich ataxia. Friedreich ataxia is a genetic disorder that progressively damages the nervous system beginning in childhood. Dr Evans-Galea is also a strong advocate for women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine), co-founding Women in STEMM Australia, and serves on the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) Expert Advisory Group. She is also committed to mentoring early to mid-career researchers, establishing programs in the US and Australia.
Professor Veena Sahajwalla’s research is focused on recycling science that turns toxic and complex wastes into useable materials. A recent partnership with the steel industry resulted in a world-first, patented process that enables non-renewable coke to be partially replaced with waste tyres and/or waste plastics in electric arc furnace steelmaking. A Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales, she is Director of the Australian Research Council Green Manufacturing Research Hub and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology. Professor Sahajwalla was also a judge on the ABC TV program The New Inventors.
A Young Australian of the Year (2012), Marita Cheng is a technology entrepreneur and advocate for women in technology. She is the founder and CEO of robotics company aubot, which makes telepresence robots and robotic arms. Marita also founded Robogals, a group dedicated to encouraging girls into engineering which has grown to include branches around the world. With degrees in engineering (mechatronics) and computer science, Marita also serves on the boards of Foundation for Young Australians, RMIT’s New Enterprise Investment Fund, the Victorian State Innovation Expert Panel, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative's Tech Advisory Board.
Pamela Travers (she was born Helen Lyndon Goff) was the Australian-born writer who created Mary Poppins, the magical nanny whose stories have captivated children and adults alike. Walt Disney convinced Travers to allow him to turn Mary Poppins into a movie, the story of which is told in the recent film Saving Mr Banks. Travers was reportedly unhappy with Disney’s final version of the film and cried at its premiere. She passed away in London in 1996.
Cassie De Colling
Cassie De Colling is an award winning film director whose first movie, about a six-year-old girl who dreams of becoming Kashmir’s first female snowboarder, won her the National Geographic Adventure Filmmaker of the year award. She also explores the potential for immersive filmmaking, creating the virtual reality documentary Uku360°. She works on projects around the world that encompass documentary, advertising and virtual reality.