Women in research who are changing the world – Part 2

Whether it’s marine science, environmental contaminants, regenerative agriculture, food security, stroke rehabilitation or social dynamics, Southern Cross University researchers are tackling the questions that matter, and coming up with solutions. In this series, we look at just a few of many women researchers who are pushing the boundaries in their respective fields.

Part 2 of this series takes a closer look at speech pathologist Dr Dr Kirstine Shrubsole and environmental geochemist Dr Niloofar Karimian. Read Part 1 here.

Dr Kirstine Shrubsole

Aphasia is a devastating condition affecting up to 38 percent of stroke survivors. It affects all aspects of communication including speech, comprehension, reading and writing. Southern Cross University researcher and clinical supervisor Dr Kirstine Shrubsole is teaching fellow speech pathologists how to use Communication Partner Training in their professional practice in hospitals cross southeast Queensland and Northern New South Wales, the culmination of her PhD research into aphasia treatment which clinicians describe as ‘game-changing’.

“My passion is providing evidence-based speech therapy services to people who have communication impairment after stroke. There are many challenges to providing evidence-based services, which led me to return to university after 10 years in hospitals to research how to improve services in speech pathology and stroke.

“Once I started down this path, I found I had the best of both worlds – researching best practice and helping speech pathologists to change their practice for the better.

Kirstine has regular contact with world-class researchers and collaborates nationally and internationally. “There are so many amazing opportunities. In speech pathology, most of the researchers I work with are other women.  We support each other and usually end up being friends as well.

We understand that many of us juggle family lives and young children, and there is sometimes a lot of pressure to succeed. The biggest challenge for me is learning to say ‘no’ if I am working on too many projects, and also to remember to ask for help when I need it. Southern Cross University is so supportive of women researchers, it has been an amazing start to my research career,” she says.

Dr Niloofar Karimian

A neighbour of arsenic on the periodic table, antimony is used in a multitude of industrial products – from ceramics and rubber to clothing and even aircraft. As an environmental contaminant however, antimony can have fatal consequences for wildlife and long lasting effects on the landscape. Scientists are only just beginning to understand how it enters waterways and soil and one of the researchers at the forefront of this investigation is Dr Niloofar Karimian.

“Antimony comes from the Greek word antimonos, which means ‘against loneliness’. It’s a poetic reference, but it reflects the fact that antimony is usually found in compound form and rarely in its metallic state. We don’t know that much about how it behaves in the environment but we need to understand more, as it is present in so many products from every aspect of our lives,” she says.

After finishing her Masters in Soil Chemistry and Fertility in Iran, Niloofar moved to Australia to pursue a PhD in Environmental Geochemistry at Southern Cross GeoScience (SCGS). She was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for her outstanding PhD thesis in 2017, which was recommended by examiners as an exemplar for other PhD students in the geochemistry field. She is now employed as a postdoctoral research fellow at SCGS.

Her research is at the cutting edge of innovation in applied and fundamental aspects of environmental geochemistry and mineralogy. “My research focuses on how climate-driven mineral formation and transformations affect the mobility and bioavailability of a range of toxic trace metals and metalloids (including arsenic, antimony, and chromium). I’m using state-of-the-art equipment such as synchrotron technology and focusing on developing sustainable remediation strategies for land and water contaminated with toxic metals,” she says.

To find out more about study and research at Southern Cross University, click here.

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