Winners Announced In Queensland Women In Stem Awards 2020

Written By
Rebecca Ruhle

Queensland women creating antiparasitic drugs from spider venom, using genetic markers to combat obesity, increasing energy yield from natural gas, understanding the biological mechanisms of mental health, applying Traditional Knowledge to inform Climate Change adaptation plans and rebuilding coral reefs have been named finalists in the 2020 Queensland Women in STEM Prize.

The Queensland Women in STEM prize recognises Queensland women who make an outstanding contribution in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Now in its fifth year, this prestigious prize – presented by Queensland Museum Network, Queensland Government and the BHP Foundation – provides $15,000 to three women working in STEM careers whose practice has the potential to benefit Queensland.

Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said the Palaszczuk Government supports the Women in STEM awards, especially given that science is an important part of Queensland’s plan for economic recovery, contributing to jobs in science and research and improving health outcomes.

“Each year I am impressed by the quality of applicants and their incredible contribution to world-leading research being conducted right here in Queensland,” Minister Enoch said.

“These inspiring women are turning science into solutions for Queensland’s social wellbeing and creating positive employment opportunities. Their achievements will help inspire others to explore a career in science and play an important role in solving local and global challenges.

“As we navigate the impacts of COVID-19, science and its related careers are integral to our health and economic recovery.”

Prizes are awarded across three categories: Jury Award, People’s Choice Award and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Jury Award.

Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said the increased focus on STEM in Queensland schools was paying off.

“This is a significant time in human history for innovation, and it’s Queensland women who are leading the world with scientific solutions never before thought possible,” Ms Farmer said.

“From new uses for spider venom to re-engineering the genetics of obesity, we’re part of an exciting age of scientific discovery and unprecedented career opportunities for Queensland women of all backgrounds.

“Congratulations to this year’s Queensland Women in STEM prize winners for showing young girls not only can they do anything; they can also be the best at anything.”

Judging criteria for the Jury Awards included effective communication, the potential societal impact of their work and their commitment to raising awareness of STEM through community engagement activities.

Entries for the Queensland Women in STEM Prize opened in October 2019 to students and early to mid-career women working in STEM careers.

Queensland Museum Network CEO Dr Jim Thompson said the Queensland Women in STEM prize celebrates the achievements of women working in STEM industries and recognises their role in inspiring and supporting the next generation.

“I congratulate all of the finalists for this outstanding recognition of their research, who were selected from a strong field of applicants and chosen by a panel of experts from business, industry and academia,” Dr Thompson said.

“We look forward to seeing how the projects evolve and the positive impact they will have not only on STEM research in Queensland, but the also the world around us.”

James Ensor, Chief Executive, BHP Foundation said in Australia the Foundation is committed to supporting a national effort to address the gap between the growing demand for a STEM-educated workforce and access to people with the right skills and qualifications.

‘We have to help build an Australia where access and opportunity to participate in STEM education is available to everyone. So the Foundation is focussed on national projects that are forging new STEM career pathways for under-represented groups – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and women,” Mr Ensor said.

“We continue to support this Awards program because it is initiatives like this that drive greater visibility of successful women, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, in STEM careers and inspire more women to pursue STEM education.”

Finalists were selected by a leading panel of experts including Dr Paul Bertsch, Interim Queensland Chief Scientist; Professor Melissa Brown Executive Dean, Faculty of Science, UQ; Professor Rebecca Ford Dean, Research, Griffith University; Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie AM, Head First People’s Think Tank and Research Centre, CQUniversity; Dr Jim Thompson Chief Executive Officer, Queensland Museum Network; Professor Kerrie Wilson Executive Director, Institute for Future Environments, QUT.



JURY AWARD awarded to the most meritorious applicant, as determined by a panel of esteemed judges

Winner – Samantha Nixon Fighting creepy with crawly: using spider venoms to make next-generation antiparasitic drugs

Hear Samantha talk about her research on our YouTube.

Kate Quigley Beat the heat: helping corals withstand increasing ocean temperatures

Hear Kate talk about her research on our YouTube.


People’s Choice Award awarded to the applicant with the highest number of public votes

Winner – Denuja Karunakaran Trimming the Fat: Targeting novel genetic factors and molecules that drive obesity

Hear Kate talk about her research on our YouTube.

Divya Mehta Epigenetics: Why our DNA is not our destiny

Hear Kate talk about her research on our YouTube.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Jury Award awarded to the most meritorious Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicant, as determined by a panel of esteemed judges

Winner – Toni Hay Indigenous Climate Change Adaptation

Keely Perry STEM: As through the eyes of a rural Queenslander

Hear Keely talk about her research on our YouTube.

Read the full ministerial release about the 2020 winners here.

Media enquiries:

[email protected]

Kylie Hay, Senior Media Officer P: (07) 3842 9388 or  M: 0434 565 852

Christine Robertson, Senior Media Officer P: (07) 3840 7789 or M: 0417 741 710

Written By
Rebecca Ruhle


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Send this to a friend