Looking to uncover what lies behind female-specific pain and develop effective pain relief for endometriosis and other conditions has seen Flinders University’s Dr Kelsi Dodds named as one of Australia’s newest Superstars of STEM.
Another outstanding College of Medicine and Public Health researcher Dr Dhani Dharmaprani, Research Associate in Cardiac Electrophysiology, has joined an elite lineup of 60 Australian scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians – 14 in South Australia – who want to step into the media spotlight as STEM experts.
Dr Dharmaprani is a Biomedical Engineer and Postdoctoral Research Associate in Cardiac Electrophysiology at the Cardiac Signals Analysis Laboratory, led by Professor Anand Ganesan.
She undertook her Bachelor in Biomedical Engineering (Hons) at Flinders University, graduating in 2016, and completed her PhD in 2020.
Her current research focus is cardiac electrophysiology, specifically in relation to exploring computational and analytical approaches to better understand the mechanisms underlying cardiac fibrillation.
Dr Dharmaprani was a winner of the Math category in South Australia’s recent Women in STEM Winnovation Awards, as well as a finalist in the categories of Engineering and Science, has been involved in Fresh Science’s Bright Spark program, and worked with her team on attracting about $2 million in research funding in the last two years.
Dr Dodds says she’s honoured to be named and is excited to take on the challenge to not only educate but empower young people and promote science to the next generation.
“Despite public attention on endometriosis and other pelvic pain conditions slowly beginning to increase, the historical stigma around women’s health lingers,” says Dr Dodds.
“This trivialises symptoms and creates barriers for girls, women, and people assigned female at birth to seek medical attention, so they continue to suffer in silence.
“This is why I wanted to join Superstars of STEM, so I could learn the best way to better educate the public and contribute to normalising conversations about the female body.”
Currently an early-career academic, Dr Dodds heads up uterine physiology research within the Visceral Neurophysiology Laboratory at the Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute, primarily examining the anatomy and function of sensory nerves that effect the uterus.
Since receiving her PhD from the University of Adelaide in 2018, she has authored more than 16 peer-reviewed publications and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in research funding as chief investigator.
This is alongside contributing to a patent that developed a novel medical device to treat pelvic pain, and pioneering a novel, “naïve” mouse model of endometriosis that does not involve surgery or hormone manipulation – a model now adopted globally by several other research groups.
Other Superstars of STEM in this year’s list also include Flinders University graduates Sophie Gilbey (BSc(Env Sc) ’22) and Dr Cori Stewart (GCertPubSecMgmt ‘13) and former Flinders University biological sciences staff member Professor Kirsten Benkendorff (2009-11).
Flinders University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint congratulated this year’s Flinders University Superstars of STEM on being selected to step into the spotlight for science.
“At Flinders, we pride ourselves on doing research that will have a real-world impact and this is best achieved when our academics can use their knowledge to better inform the public.
“Our winners have shown themselves to be wonderful communicators and will be a great role models for the next generation,” says Professor Saint.
Superstars of STEM is an initiative of Science and Technology Australia funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Science and Resources.
Through a highly competitive selection process, the program selects 60 women and non-binary STEM experts and gives them the training, confidence, networks and experience to become sought-after media commentators as experts in their fields.
Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic MP congratulated the newest Superstars of STEM on stepping into the public arena to help inspire the next generations of diverse young Australians into STEM.
“The need to boost diversity in our science, technology, engineering and mathematics sector is urgent,” says Mr Husic.
“There are huge skills shortages that can be addressed if we put our minds and collective effort to it – which means we have to draw deeply on our nation’s expertise from all corners of the community.
“By doing so, we can deliver a stellar boost to our national economy and enable Australia to meet the growing demand for STEM-trained workers.
“I’ve always been a fan of the way the Superstars of STEM program pushes to deliver a diverse STEM workforce and ensures the next generation of scientists and technologists have visible role models.
“I just know these talented experts and communicators will play their part inspiring Australia’s young people – from all backgrounds – into science and technology.”
Read more about the program at https://scienceandtechnologyaustralia.org.au/what-we-do/superstars-of-stem/