Making a difference is something that Professor Melinda (Lindy) Fitzgerald is passionate about. She shared her experience and thoughts at a recent informal coffee and chat event hosted by UWA Women in Science Community of Practice. 

Professor Fitzgerald is head of the Neurotrauma research group at the Perron Institute and the newly appointed Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research at Curtin University. 

In 2016, Professor Fitzgerald was part of the first cohort of Homeward Bound, an international leadership and strategy program for women scientists designed to increase the proportion of women in the higher levels of science and run as an expedition to Antarctica.  

“It was life-changing in some respects, particularly how it helped me think about values, vision and purpose,” she said. 

“It encouraged me to sit back and think about what I would like to have achieved when I am sitting on my rocking chair. For me, it’s making a difference.” 

Professor Fitzgerald co-instituted a UWA faculty gender equity group, coordinated a STEAM mentoring program for PhD students and early career researchers, and contributed as a member of the Australasian Neuroscience Society Gender Equity and Diversity Committee. She was the inaugural Chair of the ARC Centre for Integrative Brain Function Gender Equity and Diversity Committee and was a member of the Perkins Institute EMCR Mentoring Committee. She has spoken at institutional, scientific and community events about gender equity in science and co-founded the Australasian Women in Neuroscience Facebook page. 

Professor Fitzgerald conducted postdoctoral research at the University of New South Wales, the University of Queensland and the Baker Institute, working on cardiovascular biology and myocardial cell signalling. Shortly after, she took an eight-year parental career break and then returned to research part-time for several years. Over time she strategically expanded her roles, collaborations and publication output, acknowledging the support of her husband as well as Emerita Professor Sarah Dunlop and Professor Lyn Beazley AO FTSE. 

“I received invaluable mentoring and guidance from Lyn and Sarah in my career. I took every opportunity, and my husband provided great support to enable me to do that. I couldn’t have done it without them.” 

In her new role as Associate DVCR at Curtin University, her top priorities include a Research Excellence strategy, HDR support and a postgraduate mentoring committee. 

This session was moderated by Dr Huan Ting Ong, PhD (Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Ear Science Institute Australia and Adjunct Research Fellow at UWA) from the UWA Women in Science CoP Committee.  

At their next event on 30 November, Dr Barbara Nattabi MD, PhD (Senior Lecturer, School of Population and Global Health at UWA) will be sharing her story and you can sign up here