Research and Education Leaders to head Women in STEMM Australia

December 07, 2021

Women in STEMM Australia appoints two exceptional leaders, Professor Madhu Bhaskaran and Sarah Chapman, to replace outgoing co-chair and co-founder, Michelle Gallaher, who has now completed her term.

Image: New Women in STEMM Australia co-chairs, Professor Madhu Bhaskaran and Sarah Chapman will uphold the mission of the organisation which is to connect all women, girls and champions of change in STEMM. Image supplied.

Women in STEMM Australia appoints two exceptional leaders, Professor Madhu Bhaskaran and Sarah Chapman, to replace outgoing co-chair and co-founder, Michelle Gallaher, who has now completed her term.

Professor Bhaskaran is a globally recognised engineer and applied research leader, co-leading the Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group at RMIT University. Ms Chapman is a science educator and Head of Science at Townsville State High School. They will serve in leadership alongside the current co-chair, Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea AM, who will complete her term next June.

Together, the new leadership team wants to create a broader, more inclusive network for a diverse range of underrepresented students and professionals in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, health and medicine across all professional sectors.

Women in STEMM Australia was founded in 2014 and uses its large digital footprint to share wide-ranging information relevant to women and underrepresented groups in STEMM, amplify STEMM associations and social enterprises whose values and goals are aligned, and shine a light on the gaps in sector, including in policy and best practice.

Professor Bhaskaran and Ms Chapman are both long-standing, highly committed advocates of diversity, inclusion and allyship in STEMM and have each served for years on the Women in STEMM Australia board.

Bhaskaran has received numerous awards for her innovative research, industry collaborations and leadership, such as the Batterham Medal from the Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering, the Frederick White Prize from the Australian Academy of Science, and the Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher.

Chapman is a dynamic STEM educator who has received the Prime Minister’s Prize for Secondary Science Teaching for science teaching excellence and the Barbara Cail Fellowship from Chief Executive Women Australia. She also established the Townsville STEM Hub for North Queensland which brings the community together, and she is a STEM Ambassador with Science & Technology Australia.

Professor Bhaskaran said, “It is an honour to take on this role alongside Sarah and I am excited to see how we can bring our multi-sector experience to this organisation’s leadership. Diversity and inclusion conversations and measures have come a long way since Women in STEMM Australia was first established and I am very proud to have this opportunity to take the organisation forward with a clear lens of intersectionality.”

Sarah Chapman said “I am humbled to continue on the Women in STEMM Australia legacy founded by two very inspirational women, Marguerite and Michelle. This organisation will continue to connect women across the nation and provide a platform of influence, allyship and advocacy. I am moved to have the opportunity to co-lead with Madhu and bring more depth of focus on underrepresented groups within the STEMM ecosystem.”

Ms Chapman said that she was passionate about continuing to build the connections and opportunities for collaboration moving forward. “In the current trials thrust upon us by this pandemic, addressing gaps within the STEMM ecosystem will require the efforts of us all. It is crucial to come together, to amplify the diverse voices around us and embed them into the fabric of each STEMM sector.”

Professor Bhaskaran and Ms Chapman join the new leadership team at a time when Australia’s STEMM ecosystem is experiencing unique, unprecedented challenges in research, education and business.

Dr Evans-Galea said that many organisations, students and professionals have faced a range of different challenges including high-pressure situations to keep business afloat and staff employed, isolation from friends and family, as well as their campuses and workplaces, with many experiencing significant job insecurity or unemployment.

“Rising stars and STEMM leaders in industry, academia, education and business are all finding it hard for different reasons. Students and professionals who are carers have been hardest hit, especially with school and childcare closures, and the health system under pressure”, she said.

“Women in most sectors are completely burnt out and in need of greater support from governments, organisations and leaders, as well as their peers”, she said.

Michelle Gallaher, cofounder, Women in STEMM Australia completes her high impact term as co-chair and public officer [Image: WiSA; Bizzarri Photography]

Outgoing co-chair Michelle Gallaher cofounded Women in STEMM Australia and has served as a volunteer director and co-chair since 2014. She has been applauded and commended by cofounder Evans-Galea and the board for her exceptional leadership and impact. Gallaher is proud of the legacy she has co-created.

“I am delighted to reflect and celebrate the achievements of our diverse community at this important moment, and to pass the baton to the next generation of leaders. The act of passing the leadership on, recognises and models the importance of relinquishing a seat to make way for new voices and ideas,” said Gallaher. “An action that we need to see more of in the STEMM community.”

“Alongside my friend and collaborator Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea, I’m very fortunate and proud to have played my part in creating a catalyst for change, for amplifying the value and voices of Australian STEMM women, for sharing bold ideas and uncomfortable truths, and for an opportunity to learn and unlearn, creating a path for women and allies who come with us and after us”, Ms Gallaher said.

“Women in STEMM Australia is in very good hands, and thankfully so, as there is still much work to be done to close the gap.”


Professor Madhu Bhaskaran co-leads the Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group at RMIT University. Her work on electronic skin and wearable sensors has been patented and her group now works collaboratively with multiple industry and design partners to commercialise the technology for healthcare and aged care. She has won several awards and fellowships for her research including competitive Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship (2010-2014) and Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship (2016-2018). She has also won a Victoria Fellowship and has been named as one of Top 10 Innovators under 35 for Asia (MIT Technology Review 2016).

A staunch advocate for women in science, Professor Bhaskaran is co-founder of the Women Researchers’ Network at RMIT University and has served on the Executive then Board of Directors with Women in STEMM Australia since 2015.

Sarah Chapman is Head of Department at the Department of Education and Training at Townsville State High School (Queensland). She graduated from the James Cook University (JCU) with a Bachelor of Science (Honours Class 1) in 1999 and a Bachelor of Education in 2004. Sarah has been instrumental in the development and implementation of the Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics project which aims to develop specific skills and an interest in science in middle school students. This project has promoted teacher confidence in teaching science and improved school links with the community and JCU, and has facilitated an easier transition for students from primary to secondary school.

Sarah was a Teacher Finalist in the 2013 BHP Billiton Science & Engineering Awards and her work has been recognised with an Australian Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009, and the prestigious 2013 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools. Sarah wants to see greater diversity in science and is keen to encourage all of her students, girls and boys, to participate.

About Women in STEMM Australia

Women in STEMM Australia is a non-profit organisation founded in 2014 which has grown into a nationally and internationally recognised association for women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM).

Our core purpose is to advocate for gender equity and equality in Australia’s STEMM sectors, and support initiatives that drive change in the workplace and learning space, engage on gender equity in STEMM, whilst upholding core values such as respect and scientific excellence. Our role is to ensure women in STEMM with the capacity and capability to contribute to the innovation agenda are equally included, recognized and rewarded for their experience and expertise. Our activities welcome and aim to benefit all women in STEMM regardless of their discipline and profession.

Our philosophy is “Pay It Forward” and we uphold the core values of scientific excellence and respect for all. Women in STEMM Australia has created a diverse, inclusive network of STEMM professionals at all levels of academia, industry, education, business and government, and includes all women in STEMM regardless of their discipline and profession.

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