Queensland University of Technology
From STEM Student to STEM Academic: If I Can Do It, So Can You.

Are you eligible for Breaking Barriers Category:

SUMMARY

I am a Lecturer in the School of Computer Science at the Queensland University of Technology. My research interests are designing and developing applications/systems, evaluating applications/systems for specific end-users, analysing quantitative/qualitative data, and enabling innovative technologies for our community to live a better life. My academic career started with teaching a large unit (900+ students per semester), where the teaching team works with a wide range of skills and abilities in the cohort. I have been lecturing and tutoring with Introduction to Computer Systems for many years, a core unit in the first year of our Bachelor of Information Technology. In addition, I have been delivering the first Design of Computer Systems two-week intensive for high school girls with colleagues. This program was designed to encourage more women/girls into STEM. The unit received positive feedback, and half of the students came to study in the STEM field at the university.

BENEFIT – A description of the benefit of your work to Queensland (max 500 words)

I played a crucial role in my school’s activities aimed at outreach and advocacy for women in technology. I successfully run a new programme aimed at Year 12 female students across Brisbane. The first-year unit was redesigned for an intensive two-week delivery, and I was an essential tutor and mentor for the participants. The event was an outstanding success, and I will deliver and motivate high school students again this upcoming year. The teaching team and I provided a pragmatic yet innovative approach to learning. I think this is highly commendable and applaud this approach to encouraging more significant numbers of women in IT. The results of this new programme are a huge success for QUT and will be rerun next year. The program is transformed students’ perceptions, which resulted in increased enrolment of female students in a STEM discipline. By completing their degree, universities produce more female professionals in the IT industry. As a result of women being part of the industry, our society will transform the perception of women representatives in the workforce. Therefore, younger female students could look up to.

Not only do my teaching capabilities will benefit Queenslanders, but my research also helps to improve health and well-being for people with intellectual disabilities and the aging population to allow independent living. My current research is to explore how future conversational search system can support people with an intellectual disability seeking information online. My paper was accepted, and I will be presenting this work at a high-quality conference on implementing this initial prototype for people with intellectual disabilities. We collaborated with a disability support organisation in Queensland and anticipated the results of this study benefit them.

Technology advancement could assist people with disabilities to learn more effectively and benefit them to use technology tools independently. For example, intelligent systems could improve or maintain the quality of aged care, disability services, and people with intellectual disabilities in the healthcare sector. Align with this technology, and I am currently investigating and developing tools on how older people utilise personal devices and their attitude towards and perception of the notion of healthy ageing. My work focuses on the negative physiological, cognitive, emotional, and social changes when one grows old, where technology is designed to monitor decline.

My teaching and research capabilities positively impact the Queensland community, ranging from children, people with intellectual disabilities, and the older population. Encouraging more women in IT is always my passion, and I would like to motivate girls in the STEM workforce. My research speaks for itself that I devote my time to utilising advanced technology for improving the well-being of the older population and people with intellectual disabilities.


ROLE MODEL – Why do you think you are a good role model for women and girls aspiring to work in STEM? (max 500 words)

I believe three main characteristics empower my excellent role model for women and girls to work in STEM: standing here in the STEM, being empathetic, and being available. Those are embedded in my everyday routine that I have been doing for the past couple of years. 
Standing here in STEM is one of the prominent models for other women and girls to see. If they can see me as a woman here in STEM, they can look up. As I witnessed myself in this claim, motivating or encouraging them to do so is more feasible. My lived journey started when I was an undergrade students in IT discipline and got inspired by a successful woman who is my supervisor during that time. She was my inspiration to work hard, and I could see myself how I could achieve in the future where she stands. When I was a female PhD student in the School of Computer Science, I admired my Head of School in Computer Science as she is a woman. As a result, I have been successfully standing here in this computer science field as a Lecturer in Computer Science.

Understanding people and empathy for them are the fundamental ideas of being a good role model; I genuinely believe it is a must-have character in which I always own. I am listening to other people's thoughts and ideas which help me to grow and lead them the way they expect us to. I am kind and have zen energy. As I am an early career researcher, I found it quite challenging and often complex to adjust oneself to a new academic environment. Luckily, again, a very talented woman who is my head of school is very kind and considerate to ask me and offer help with research funding and offer extra support. Empathy could drive an early career academic like me to have the courage to move forward with a strong research mindset. I used this technique with one of my female high school students, who often asked me how I became an academic and how hard it is to become someone like me today. I always say to them, "If I can do it, so can you!". 

Last but not least, being available to people who seek help and support is part of my daily living. It is embedded into my everyday routine for students or teaching teams experiencing difficulties in unavoidable circumstances. Being present and empathetic will be helpful for others to approach and talk directly; one of my female high school girls came to the university I teach and studied the same unit we used to teach during the summer. I recognised the student and knew that this student could bypass the unit. She later sends an email, and we later catch up to discuss the university experiences; she then becomes part of our initiative program to encourage more girls to study IT.

I would be a much-needed role model for other women to take up careers in STEM. Australia's universities are desperate to recruit and retain high-quality female academics in STEM disciplines in the current, challenging environment. It is essential to encourage more women into these fields so that our future workforce is truly representative of society. 


ENGAGEMENT – Describe any STEM promotion or engagement activities that you have undertaken, including both scientific and non-scientific audiences, particularly with women and girls (maximum 500 words)

I have continually engaged with STEM promotion in my university for only females and male-female students throughout my early career. There are three mainstreams that I have been continuing to promote; 1) START QUT initiative, 2) Promoting career events in the school and 3) STEM summit 2021. START QUT initiative started in 2020 while I was a PhD student. I observed only a few girls in my tutorial classes, and I wanted to improve gender equality in the IT classrooms. So, I visited different schools (i.e., Corinda SHS, Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Mansfield State High School, Stuartholme School) and talked with girls about our program and showcase IT project. As a teaching team, we got very positive feedback from the school, and each year, we double the number of students who join the intensive program. As a result of this initiative program, about 50% of students enter STEM fields either engineering, IT, or Science.
I have got a thank you email from one of our students who joined the program last year saying that "I would also like to add that doing IFB112 was a fantastic experience to add to all my scholarship applications. For example, in August last year, I won the Peter Doherty Award for being an "Outstanding Senior STEM Student" and was awarded $5,000. This was partly because doing IFB112 shows my passion for STEM extends beyond high school into real-world applications". This feedback has influenced me a lot to continue engaging with young female students to come to study in the STEM field. I also invited our past students to involve in this initiative for this year's visit. Therefore, it will even help us more to attract more students. I was chosen as a representative of the school of computer science to present at Brisbane State High Year 10 Career Event: Software & Technology field, and at the same time promote our START QUT initiative. I spoke to the IT teacher, and we are on the same page as we see a lack of female students in the IT field, so I advised him about the initial program and invited students to join an intensive program. A couple of students from this school came to study at the university for the first taste of the IT unit. I was also delivering a one-day STEM Summit at QUT to get the sense of looking in the Computer Science discipline. This program intends to both female and male high school students. We also got positive feedback from our teaching team. For example, "Educational, I never thought of this as a potential study option but I will consider it further after today" and "A really good introduction, made me more intrigued to try IT!

I am dedicated, hard-working, capable, and kind of undertaking STEM engagement in education so that our females are represented in the workforce and the community. I hope my rich experiences will benefit everyone in our society.

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