Equality in Science

Committee for Equality in Science of the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health



  • Identifying workplace issues that impede career progression and potentially scientific research outcomes
  • Communicate these issues to the Institute’s Executive members and propose solutions
  • Improving career development opportunities (including training and networking) at The Florey
  • Developing guidelines and promoting transparency in relation to maternity leave, while providing support to ensure the continuation of research while employees are away from the workplace
  • Forming broader external networks, with a primary aim to increase awareness of a need for equality in the work place and developing cross cultural solutions as to how to achieve this in a workplace environment
  • Lobby and improve general outcomes for women and/or those with personal circumstances that affect career performance and progression in scientific careers
  • Sourcing funds to support individuals experiencing or who have experienced career disruption. The aim of providing this funding support is to minimize the effects of career interruption on research outcomes and support the career advancement of these individuals.


Co-Chairs:     Julie Bernhardt and Emma Burrows

Secretary:     Susan Palmer

Treasurer:     Wah Chin Boon


Please contact HR to receive application guidelines for committee membership of EqIS. 


Events and seminars for 2014 are to be announced. 


The Florey provides access to mentors via the Florey-EqIS Mentoring Program.


Being a mentor is extremely rewarding. If you have a minimum of 8 - 10 years experience and are currently managing one or more staff, you could be a great mentoring candidate.

Mentoring will help you hone your own management skills and get you thinking outside of your own sphere of interest. Your role as a mentor is to help a mentee understand their career potential and to support, counsel, motivate and teach them about their profession, providing a confidential sounding board.

A variety of mentors, internal and external to the Florey, are available, with;

  • various scientific, technical and administrative backgrounds
  • a variety of career levels
  • diverse work/life experiences
  • a passion for science, and
  • a desire to improve career opportunities for scientists and science-related professionals

Being a mentee can help you fast-track your career and make good decisions about the best direction for you. Having the independent advice and guidance of a more senior scientist can help you focus on what you need to do to achieve your professional goals.

If you would like more information about the program, please contact Dr. Julie Bernhardt, Dr. Emma Burrows or Cara Cortese.


The Fred P. Archer Fellowshipprovides salary support and $5,000 of unrestricted expenses each year for three years.  The Fellowship will be awarded to a female investigator who, in the opinion of the selection panel, will most benefit from this Fellowship support in her perceived potential to progress to senior scientific levels.

Winners of the Fred P. Archer are as follows:

  • Dr. Wah Chin Boon 2013
  • Dr. Stephanie Bissiere 2012
Dr. Wah Chin Boon

Dr. Wah Chin Boon is only distracted for a moment, her email is open and she’s scanning through it with one eye, one of her PhD students is at the door and I’m poking a microphone in her face, yet she’s on task, her mind is ticking over and she’s balancing it all. ‘I wanted to be a scientist since I was three years old’ she tells me ‘because I was curious as to how things work’.  

Doctor Boon is a Senior Research Fellow at the Florey Neurosciences and Mental Health Institute and the recent recipient of the Fred Archer Award. She has also been awarded since coming to the Florey, five years ago, up to 1.6 million dollars in grants to fund her research.

She began as an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore in molecular biology, soon after gaining a scholarship to come to Australia to complete her PhD research in aldosterone, a steroid hormone, which regulates the sodium level in the blood. Post PhD, she spent the next 10 years at Prince Henry’s Institute, looking into estrogens in the brain, and where she started to interrogate the effects of estrogens on brain and behavioral changes – the research she is continuing at Florey.

‘I had a choice to become a medical doctor. As a medical doctor you help each patient that comes to you, but as a scientist I thought that if I can find a cause of disease or a cure for a disease, I could help more people generally than just one person at a time.’

Wah Chin Boon is also a PhD supervisor for seven students past and present, whom she has mentored and guided through their careers, she is a fierce advocate of women in science and as a reflection of this all of her students are women. For as she says herself, ‘I actually think it’s harder for females to succeed in research because women are more reserved and not so much into chest beating as men’. Wah Chin’s advocacy extends to the Florey’s EqIS (Equality in Science) group, which she co-chaired with Dr Karin Sitte, and is currently the treasurer.

Her extensive work in Endocrinology, Molecular Biology and Neuroscience is incredibly important to the future of this field. Tracking the career pathways of Wah Chin makes it clear that she is someone who thinks outside the box, an original scientific thinker, challenging the way we think about the things in our world.

Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.” .’ Albert Szent-Györgyi (Noble Laureate who discovered vitamin C) 

Dr. Stephanie Bissiere

Dr. Stephanie Bissiere joined our Neuropeptides and Behavioural Neuroscience divisions as a senior research fellow early in 2011. Stephanie works on mechanisms of learning and memory and in particular how fear memories are encoded and remembered across the lifespan of mammals; which is important so we understand how a variety of mental disorders can arise. She uses multidisciplinary approaches ranging from animal models, molecular biology, electrophysiology and imaging.


Some 67 per cent of all Honours and PhD students within the Florey today are women, and around half of our post-doctoral scientists are also women. However, that ratio is not carried through to female representation at an executive level. 

The Florey’s ‘Women in Science’ initiative aims to raise $5 million to establish an endowment that will support a Fellowship for a senior female scientist and research assistance for scientists on maternity leave. Ms Naomi Milgrom contributed $500,000 to launch the fund, and this has been augmented by several substantial gifts from other philanthropists who are passionate about scientific research into the brain.

In its role as trustee for the Fred P. Archer Charitable Trust, the Trust Company has now generously offered to “seed fund” the Fellowship for three years whilst the fundraising campaign is in process.

Our work at the Florey is about the future – about improving the quality of life for everyone. The development of strong partnerships, such as this one, is vital to this future and we sincerely thank The Trust Company as Trustee for the Fred P. Archer Charitable Trust for its foresight.


Congratulations to Professor Ingrid Scheffer on being one of five international scientists to win the prestigious L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Award for her groundbreaking research into epilepsy.


Links of interest: