Women in STEAM

A photography exhibit showcasing women scientists

Emily Vohralik

University Of New South Wales

PhD Candidate

Molecular Genetics

I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a molecular biologist.
In high school I was interested in all sciences and maths, but it
was biology that piqued my curiosity the most. It always had
me wondering “How does that work and why?” My interest in
health, metabolism and learning have led me to a PhD in
molecular genetics and cell biology. I’m currently studying
how genes can affect our metabolism through the immune
system. More specifically, I’m trying to understand how one
type of immune cell – the eosinophil – interacts with fat cells.

We’ve found that eosinophils help promote the energy-
burning function of ‘beige’ fat cells, and my PhD project is

trying to pinpoint how they do this. What genes are controlling the eosinophil functions? What molecules do the eosinophils produce? This research is exciting because beige and brown fat burns energy and could potentially help treat obesity and metabolic disorders in humans. The more I do research, the more I realise how collaborative and creative it is. It’s fulfilling to be working to and answers to complex biological problems, but it often seems like the more we know, the more questions we uncover. There’s still so much to learn about genes and cells in our immunometabolism! It’s slightly daunting, yet at the same time thrilling to be at the forefront of knowledge.


Women in STEM fields are a minority, and that's what has to change if we 

are to solve our world's scientific problems, the problems that these specific women are aiming to solve. Gender equality is beneficial to science, offering diverse perspectives and questions that would not be expressed or asked without a woman in the room. However, although the number of women receiving STEM-related degrees is increasing, the number of women who hold senior level positions in STEM is far lower than that of men. The issue of gender equality requires attention from all genders. These women are simultaneously striving to solve scientific problems and the issue of gender equality.


These photos portray the humanness of scientists and the capability of women. Many of these women are also partners, wives, mothers, and grandmothers. This collection speaks on the many roles women play and shows us that women have strengths that can help both a family and a research team be successful. Women as scientists, leaders, and decision makers are role models forging paths and encouraging females in STEM. It is our responsibility to make sure they have the opportunity to get there. 


Women in STEAM is a photographic journey of women in STEM, and thus, the 'A' for art is inserted into the acronym, encouraging scientists to view their world and communicate their science through art. Art is a language everyone can speak. These photos speak volumes without even vocalising.


Telling the Story:


This exhibit was coordinated by Melissa Pappas, an international PhD candidate, aiming to communicate science through art. The project was developed based on the desire to raise awareness of female scientists, specifically those at her own university. The project was inspired by the UNSW Women in Maths and Sciences Champion Program, which enables women in STEM fields to strengthen their leadership and communication skills. It is clear that women are capable of leading scientific teams as shown by just a small portion of our own leaders in these photos. 


The photographer, Natalie Rutkowska, a UNSW Art and Design student, has worked on science communication projects in the past, joining both research stories and visual arts. Her work in this exhibit ties together her passion for photography, women empowerment and her curiosity in STEM fields. Natalie’s participation in the project sparked a rediscovered love for science while interviewing the impressive women showcased here. She is now enrolled in an exercise physiology program at The University of Sydney.


This photography exhibit was made possible by the UNSW EDI Department grant.


Natalie Rutkowska


Having developed a passion for photography from a young age, studying arts within university had always been a dream for Natalie. A dream come true after now having graduated with a distinction in the bachelor of fine arts at UNSW. Natalie now turns her focus towards working and collaborating, with other creators, on innovative projects.


An avid traveler, her camera is never far behind on any of her worldwide adventures. In her spare time, she loves creating art and filling her mind with all things science-related. 

Supporting Women in Science

A seminar on encouraging gender equality and females in STEM

Supporting Women in Science is a discussion around the themes of gender equality in academia, the challenges of science careers, the many roles women play in work and life, and the future outlook of females in STEM careers. Our three main speakers presented on their science and personal journeys, sharing stories on accomplishments, failures, and ways to encourage equality in research. Find them on social media to follow their research stories.


Dr. Lisa Williams

Senior lecturer at UNSW

Associate Dean of the EDI


Dr Lisa A. Williams is a social psychologist interested in the dynamics between emotional experience and social interaction.


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Dr. Sarah Brough


Associate Professor at UNSW

"The core of my research is understanding how galaxies change with time, and how that change depends on the environment they are found in."


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Dr. Bill Leggat

Marine scientist

Associate Professor at University of Newcastle

 "My research focuses on understanding the transcriptome and metabolome of  coral and their symbiotic microbes under climate change stress."


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