Mater Researcher wins 2021 Queensland Women in STEM Prize

Monday 26 July 2021

Mater Researcher Chloe Yap always dreamed of becoming a doctor and thought her medical degree would be her main pathway to helping people, but a summer project with the University of Queensland six years ago, changed that.

Chloe decided to complement her medical degree with medical research on autism – leading to her being awarded the 2021 Queensland Women in STEM Prize.

“I enjoyed science through high school, and I had my heart set on Medicine, but that summer just changed me.  Conducting research on autism just gave me this chronic excitement that comes with seeing results that no one else has seen before,” Chloe said.

The Judge’s Award for Women in STEM was delivered this month by the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist, Office for Women and the Queensland Museum Network.

Chloe, who works with Mater Research in the Translational Research Institute and the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at The University of Queensland, uses “big data” from the Australian Autism Biobank based in Brisbane to better understand autism with the hope it will help improve diagnosis.

“We actually don’t know very much about autism and unfortunately that means there’s no good biological tests for autism and children are often diagnosed late,” Chloe said.

“Most of us know autism is associated with having some difficulties socialising, but it also comes with a different way of seeing and sensing the world.”

Chloe said she was passionate about trying to understand the biology of the mind and was honoured to be awarded the 2021 Queensland Women in STEM Prize.

“I like being around people who are really passionate and have an unquenchable curiosity about the world around them. I find this really infectious.

“I think it’s really important to see representation of women in STEM, because STEM is driven in many ways, towards solving society’s problems. I think to solve a diverse society’s problems, we also need diversity in the people working on the problems.”

Now in its sixth year and presented by Queensland Museum Network and the Queensland Government, the prize recognises women who are making a difference to the world, in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) fields.