5 tips for women in STEM with Dr Lacey Johnson
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we caught up with one of Lifeblood’s most respected scientists and Principal Research Fellow, Dr Lacey Johnson, to find out what advice she has for the next generation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
As an organisation, we were so excited to see that the United Nations had chosen ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,’ as the theme for International Women’s Day 2023. Australian Red Cross Lifeblood would not exist without the work of countless women in STEM, including our founder Dr Lucy Bryce. The work we do today has been built on decades of research carried out by men and women across Australia, and while we’ve learnt so much, there’s still more left to discover. That’s why we want to inspire more women to enter this exciting field and answer the questions we haven’t even thought of yet!
If you’re getting ready to take your first steps into the world of STEM, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed and knowing where to start is half the challenge. To help, Dr Lacey Johnson has been busy in the lab, coming up with a few simple tips for anyone interested in a career in STEM!
5 tips from Dr Lacey Johnson
1. Use your passion for science to fuel your career
A career in scientific research is super rewarding and never boring, but you might not always be in the lab. As a medical research scientist, I do carry out laboratory-based experiments, but I also teach junior staff and university students, and spend a lot of time writing reports, scientific manuscripts, and grants. I also have to travel to visit other labs or speak at conferences. Whatever area you choose, having a passion for all aspects of your role is vital for a successful career in STEM.
2. Stay curious
If your research gets you out of bed and keeps you up at night, then the obstacles you face along the way will seem worthwhile. I really love that my research will increase the availability of blood products (platelets in particular) to places that currently don’t have any (defence operations and rural areas). This has the opportunity to save lives! I also love learning about new technologies or advances in other fields of STEM to see how those developments can be applied to my particular problem.
3. Resilience is key
Not every experiment works. Not every question gets answered. Not every grant gets funded. Science is hard, and you will need to be ok with this, so that you can keep moving forward. I think it is important to realise that it wasn’t ‘wasted’ time, but an opportunity to learn how to do things differently. The good thing is that this skill is highly transferable to other parts of life, and other careers, too.
4. Surround yourself with people who inspire you
Mentor/mentee relationships are an incredible resource for career development in both directions. Mentors can be a great source of guidance, make great collaborators, and aren’t as scary as they may seem. Engaging with people at different stages of their careers can help you see how you get there or open your eyes to opportunities you hadn’t considered. Networking was traditionally done at conferences, but there are now lots of online opportunities to connect with people in your research field. I love sharing my experiences with students and junior members of the team, and often learn things from them too.
5. Teamwork makes the dream work
I initially went into scientific research thinking that it would require less social interaction than other medical fields (such as being a clinician). However, I have learnt that good science requires successful teamwork and collaboration. People bring their own diversity, creativity, experiences, and perspectives to solving a problem, and a good team draws on the strengths of each person. Never be afraid to speak up and contribute to team discussions, even if you are junior.
A little bit about Dr Lacey Johnson
In the past few years, Lacey has supervised and mentored more than 15 PhD, Masters, Honours and summer students providing them with valuable first-hand experience at Lifeblood’s Research and Development Lab in Sydney. When she’s not training the next generation of scientists, Lacey can be found in Lifeblood’s labs uncovering the mysteries of our blood or at home writing scientific papers and applying for new grants to further fund our research. Recently, Lacey’s work has changed the way we think about storing platelets, potentially extending their shelf-life from days to years! You can learn more here.
Make a difference today
Working in STEM takes patience and medical studies can take years to complete. This work is vital, and the results can be quite literally lifesaving, but if you want to make a life-changing impact today – become a blood donor! Giving blood is one of the most rewarding things you can do, and if you donate this March, you’ll get a limited-edition bandage designed by Aussie Icon Jenny Kee to celebrate international women’s day.
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