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.
A flourishing STEM career is the reason Dr Iris Lim has been able to travel the world, present her research to her peers, and meet other women who inspire and motivate her. Her passion for STEM was first ignited during her school years in Malaysia and continued to grow after moving to the Gold Coast and commencing study at Bond University.
We spoke to Dr Lim about how she got into STEM, her focuses on teaching and research, and the strong bonds she’s developed with other female scientists here at Bond.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey to getting involved in STEM?
As much as I love a good story, there wasn’t necessarily a turning point where I realised exactly what I wanted to do – it was more gradual. Throughout my high school years, I slowly developed a liking and passion for science subjects, especially biology and chemistry. The more I learned about the complexity of the human body, the more my fascination grew. I attended school in Malaysia, and I lived there for the first 17 years of my life. Growing up in Malaysia with such a passion for science, I was told that my only option to pursue these interests was to become a medical doctor. I’m very lucky to have parents who knew better.
After high school, I moved to the Gold Coast and begun the Foundation program at Bond University College. Following that, I started a degree in biomedical science at Bond University and began to expose myself to the different areas within medical science.
Throughout my years in this degree at Bond, I kept my options open and learned a lot about various medical science interest areas, whilst trying to figure out what excited me the most. I made sure to chat with my lecturers as much as possible and often sought their advice on what kind of career they thought would suit my interests and attributes.
Towards the end of my degree, I found myself drawn to conducting research in the medical science field. Whilst most of my cohort wanted to become doctors, I had never felt like that was my calling and instead, was intrigued by pharmacology, where uses and effects of different drugs are investigated. Following graduation, I spent five months in a lab as a research assistant to get a feel of this potential career and fell in love with this kind of work.
Was there anything – or anyone – in particular that inspired you to follow a career in science?
My parents have always been my backbone and inspiration. It’s a little strange, because neither of them pursued a career in science, but they’ve both supported and nurtured my interest in this field since I was young. There’s nothing I want more than to make them proud by succeeding in, and enjoying, my work in STEM.
What is your current role and research area, and how did you get there?
After completing my Bachelor of Biomedical Science, I decided to undertake a PhD with my pharmacology lecturer. Throughout the next three and a half years, I was given the opportunity to study potential drug treatments for helping patients pass kidney stones more effectively and with less pain. I received my PhD, and since then, have been an Assistant Professor in Biomedical Science in the Faculty of Health Sciences & Medicine here at Bond.
I’m still actively researching in the areas of pharmacology and urology, and simultaneously, teaching neurophysiology and anatomy. I love both parts of my job, as they’re equally stimulating and rewarding. My research highlight so far has been a month learning research techniques in a cell physiology lab in Nagoya, Japan. My teaching highlight to date is winning a university-wide teaching award in 2020 for my contribution to Bond’s outstanding student experience.
What’s your favourite part of working in a STEM field?
There are almost too many to name, but I think my favourite part is all the chances I get to meet other people at national and international conferences. This is where I get to present my research findings, explore opportunities for partnerships with collaborators and meet people with similar goals.
What has your experience learning from and collaborating with other women in STEM been like?
Learning from and working with women in STEM here at Bond has been a lovely experience, and I know it will continue to be too! Having been at this university for 11 years firstly as a student and now a lecturer, there have been so many female role models, many of whom are still here, who I look up to. These incredible women are not just within the Faculty of Health Sciences & Medicine, but teach within other facilities and work in other areas of the University.
There are a few influential people I’d like to mention specifically, including my former lecturers and now close colleagues and friends, Dr Donna Sellers and Dr Catherine McDermott. They have both motivated and guided me throughout my time here at Bond. The other person I’d love to acknowledge is my sister Sheryl, who completed a Bachelor of Actuarial Science at Bond Business School. During the two years she was studying at Bond, she spent a lot of time giving me feedback on my teaching from the learners’ perspective. This was crucial in helping me improve and be the best educator I can be!
How do you think we can inspire more women and girls to get involved in STEM?
Leading by example. I think the only way we can inspire others is to show how working in STEM can make a difference and why it matters. I really believe we need to keep building up the younger generation and provide them with opportunities and encouragement to pursue a career in this field.
Do you have any advice for young girls who might be wary to express an interest in STEM subjects or career paths?
My advice is to believe in yourself and to find an experienced mentor in the field you can trust and speak to about what interests you. This is what I did, and I’ve never looked back!
Why do you think it is important for women to be represented in science?
Unfortunately, women are outnumbered by men in STEM fields, but that doesn’t mean they’re not driven to achieve – in my experience, they’re equally so, if not more motivated to make a difference. Women who are passionate about STEM bring their unique qualities and attributes to the field, and ultimately, have an amazing opportunity to become role models for girls and women who love science, technology, maths and more.
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