To celebrate International Women’s Day and as part of our commitment to being Women in STEM Decadal Plan Champions, we’re highlighting an impressive early career researcher who is definitely on the rise.
Niamh Chapman is a passionate medical research and science communicator, based at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research. Her research interests include improving healthcare delivery and policy to prevent cardiovascular disease and in particular the role of technology in this space.
Niamh is known for founding the national award-winning radio show and podcast That’s what I call Science. The goal of the show is to create accurate, accessible and engaging STEM content that showcases the depth of knowledge and expertise in Tasmania. As an all-women team, the show aims to increase the visibility of women in STEM and demonstrate that women can hold authoritative voices and drive the conversation in a broad range of fields.
The show produced a 3-part series for International Women’s Day 2020.
What inspired you to get into STEM?
I wasn’t very good at science in school so I didn’t really consider a career in STEM until later. I have always been curious, had a strong sense of social justice and a motivation to “do good”. I didn’t join the dots that a STEM career might enable me to do all those things. Eventually, I found myself working at a high-street optician and selling glasses, but what I was more interested in was the screening for health that was done through pictures and examinations. I quickly realised I wanted to keep learning and so went to a university open day. That day, I met one of the most significant mentors I’ve had, Dr. Barry McDonnell, who fostered my curiosity and encouraged me to pursue STEM opportunities.
How did you start working in the field of STEM
After completing a professional training year at the Wales Heart Research Institute, I attended a conference in Poland where I met my now supervisor, Prof. James Sharman. They had some extremely exciting work coming up and we both thought it could be a good fit for a PhD – the rest is history! I’ve got to say, I really admire that they followed up on their word and almost a year to the day later I was 18,000 kms from home starting out my research career.
What do you like most about working in STEM?
I love that STEM is creativity and curiosity-driven. There is so much flexibility to pursue an idea, so long as it is a hypothesis based on what is currently known or not known! I love the vibrancy of trying to distil research findings into something meaningful for healthcare delivery, practice providers, health consumers and policymakers. It is at times hard but I find the collegiality really uplifting in difficult times and have had amazing support from so many people, which I think is pretty special.