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Women in STEM: Dayna Bushell

From the frontlines of COVID-19 care to space exploration, climate change research and so much more, there are brilliant women making huge strides in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) around the world. So, we’re zeroing in on a few of them; in particular the wonderful women on our own doorstep here at Bond University.

Dayna Bushell’s heart hasn’t always been set on STEM, but her affinity for health sciences and medicine evolved through her teenage years, leading her to study a Bachelor of Biomedical Science here at Bond University. Growing up in regional Mackay, career opportunities in STEM were limited. However, when Dayna came to Bond and began learning from some of the country’s best academics, with research opportunities right at her fingertips, all of that changed. Now, a bachelor’s degree and an honours degree later, Dayna’s knowledge is continuing to grow as she progresses with her PhD, alongside the support of Bond’s higher degree by research community.

We caught up with Dayna in the latest instalment of our Women in STEM series to learn all about her goal of making a lasting impact in the community, and how she is applying biomedical research to educate the general public on global health issues.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey to getting involved in STEM?

For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in medicine and science. I was fortunate enough to attend a school that placed a large focus on the science curriculum from Prep through to Year 12, allowing me to further develop my interests. In 2018, I was awarded a scholarship to study a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Bond University, commencing the following year. Completing this degree gave me the opportunity to learn from Bond’s celebrated academics and to develop my knowledge and curiosity across a range of topics.

I'm currently working alongside some of the academics who encouraged me to undertake this career path. Throughout the past two years, I have been exposed to an abundance of research opportunities and teaching roles, which have inspired me to pursue a PhD in the field of scholarship of learning and teaching, and to work towards becoming an academic in the health sciences and medicine field.

Was there anything – or anyone – in particular that inspired you to follow a career in STEM?

I have always had an interest in science, particularly medical sciences. However, through most of my schooling, my aim was to study medicine. In Year 11, I was fortunate enough to be sponsored by the Lions Medical Research Foundation to attend the Translational Research Institute SPARQ-ed program for high school students interested in STEM. This was a real turning point for me as growing up in regional Mackay meant that STEM career opportunities and study options were generally very limited. The ability to undertake a research immersion program opened my eyes to the wide array of career paths available in medical science, and in turn, prompted me to change my intended degree to pursue a research career in science.

What is your current role, and how did you get there?

I am currently a PhD student in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine at Bond University.  While completing a Bachelor of Biomedical Science majoring in Laboratory / Research, I grew very interested in medical research and science.  This led to pursuing further study and completing my honours year. During this time, I spent my days in the laboratory, researching and learning all about the immune system. While I enjoyed this work, I felt I needed to grow my knowledge to make a direct impact in the community.

Driven to become a public health education specialist, I decided to undertake a PhD. I’m currently researching methodologies to improve clinical care for families and informal carers of people with dementia, and to equip clinicians with high-quality, evidence-based dementia education, under the supervision of Associate Professor Christian Moro and Associate Professor Cindy Jones. Australia’s ageing population is leading to an increased prevalence of diseases such as dementia, and so, research and education are necessary to improve the public health response – a huge driving force for completing my PhD.

What’s your favourite part of being involved in a STEM field?

There are so many benefits to being involved in STEM, such as always learning, being able to share new knowledge, and making connections with others. My favourite part, however, is the ability to make a real impact within the community. My PhD project enables me to work directly with members of the community and help to improve their overall quality of life.

What has your experience learning from and collaborating with other women in STEM been like?

My experience learning and collaborating with the women at Bond has been fantastic. While I was studying a bachelor’s degree, so many of the professors openly discussed their careers and research projects, which helped to inspire me and give me direction for my own career path. In the higher degree by research community I am surrounded by so many intelligent female master’s and PhD students, who all support one another by sharing advice and guidance.

How do you think we can inspire more women and girls to get involved in STEM?

I believe we need to show women and girls the possibilities of a STEM career from a young age. Conversations about STEM shouldn’t start in high school, or only be limited to schools specialising in STEM fields. By sharing our experiences in this area, we can lead by example and demonstrate how working in STEM can be a rewarding, valuable, and achievable career for women and girls of any age.

Do you have any advice for young girls who might be wary to express an interest in STEM subjects or career paths?

My main piece of advice for young girls interested in STEM is to take every opportunity that comes your way. Whether it’s involving yourself in extracurricular science events at school, attending career immersion events, or simply connecting with professionals in the field, all of these opportunities can help you to explore your interests and gain an understanding of what’s possible within the field.

Why do you think it’s important for women to be represented in STEM?

Women provide different ideas and unique perspectives, which is one reason why equal representation is so crucial. More visibility of women working in STEM careers can encourage young girls to join the field and ultimately, make valuable contributions to our society.

Sharpen your knowledge with an honours degree

Interested in completing your honours degree under the supervision of one of Bond’s world-class academics? Continue your research in STEM with a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours).

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