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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.

Whether she’s doing special effects makeup to help simulate a variety of medical scenarios, or developing engaging new ways of learning through research, Dr Jessica Stokes-Parish is prolific amongst Bond’s Women in STEM community.

We spoke to Dr Stokes-Parish, Assistant Professor of Medicine – Clinical Practice, about her journey to getting involved with STEM, from early days as a nurse to her current role and aspirations.

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

I had a rather unconventional approach to my journey to STEM! From a young age, I knew I wanted to be a nurse, as I had seen the difference nurses had made in family members’ care. I struggled a lot with the portrayal of nursing as a ‘bed pans’ job – when, in fact, the reality is that nursing is a key part of STEM and is a wonderful way to begin a STEM journey.

I’ve always had a deep love of learning and understanding science and the way things work – I think this spurred me on. Working in critical care is an amazing field. You’re able to practically apply the science at every level, when adjusting treatment and care decisions.

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

Moving beyond nursing, I always loved education, and it was my own educational journey that inspired me to become a science educator. I was seeing complex topics taught in very unengaging ways, so I thought ‘surely learning can be much more fun’ – which led me to my current career!

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

I am Assistant Professor of Medicine, Clinical Practice – I work in the Medical Program here at Bond. In this role I teach our students, manage learner programs and help review learning approaches and techniques. My current research area is learner engagement in simulation-based learning.

Although I always thought there could be better ways to teach, I fell into this area completely by accident. I was given the opportunity to work in an amazing role at another university, where I designed simulations, managed the technology and applied educational techniques – it opened a whole new world up for me! I then went on to complete a PhD, in which I studied the impact of moulage (special effects makeup) on participant engagement in simulation. Just writing that seems wild! These unbeatable experiences led me to Bond and to the role I’m in now.

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

I love the creativity and the challenge of creating meaningful moments in education, where learners can go “a-ha, I get it now!” I also just love that there are so many new ways of doing things within STEM – I am an early adopter, so you’ll see me testing out the newest approaches just to stay on top of my game! 

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

I’ve had an amazing opportunity to connect with women in STEM across both the Faculty and the nation with my simulation research. In a world that’s increasingly competitive, one of the most powerful things we can do is support and create opportunities for each other. Commodore Norris of the Royal Australian Navy said it best: “As we climb the ladder of success, so many women are tempted to ‘pull the ladder up behind them’ – but we should leave the ladder down, to encourage other women to follow.”

There are some seriously inspirational women here – Dr Nikki Lottering (a whiz at anatomy teaching), Dr Victoria Brazil (leading the way in changing healthcare culture globally and locally), Dr Jo Bishop (leading education with empathy) and Dr Kelly Menzel (bringing Indigenist ways of knowing and being into to Western systems). These are just a few!

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

We firstly need to be more visible – we need to be active on social media where women and girls are, and put our hands up for opportunities that highlight women. We also need to make things more accessible for women, because ultimately, it can be daunting to begin a journey in science at any age or stage of life.

Dr Stokes-Parish encourages women and girls to get involved in STEM in a way that aligns with their interests

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

Science is so varied, so diverse – there is a place for you whichever path you choose. From science communication to clinical care, the sky is the limit. Start by finding people around you that have studied science – whether they’re a nurse, a doctor or a science teacher – and asking them questions or observing their day-to-day. Think about what it is you really love and try match your journey to that.

Why do you think it is important for women to be represented in science? 

For a variety of reasons – but women are 50% of the population, so there is a diverse talent pool out there that is untouched! Women bring different ways of doing things, considering things – each of us has something unique to bring to the table.

Young girls need to see that it’s possible to thrive in a STEM career, and we also need women at the leadership table to help with decision making and to ensure we don’t lose girls at the bottlenecks of the pipeline. Things like flexible work environments and diverse pathways are really important to ensure girls stay engaged with STEM.

 

You can connect with Dr Stokes-Parish and keep up to date with her research via social media – she’s active on Instagram and Twitter.

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