International Women’s Day Supporting Women within our Business

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day of celebration advocating for and promoting women in all industries.

Whiteley prides itself on uplifting and supporting women within our business and this year would like to showcase one of our valued employees Dr. Jess Farrell –Microbiologist and Collaborative Research Project Coordinator.

Dr Jess Farrell is an exemplar for those working in science and particularly for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Dr. Jess Farrell’s qualifications include a Diploma of Science, a Bachelor of Science (Honours class I) majoring in Microbiology, sub-majoring in Biochemistry and a PhD from Western Sydney University. Dr. Jess Farrell is a microbiologist investigating novel treatments for biofilm-associated infections and biofilm-related contamination.

Dr. Jess’s research focused on biofilms and their ability to contaminate surfaces. She was awarded her doctoral thesis in 2018 for her research on the assessment of pathogenic biofilm contamination of high-touch hospital surfaces within an intensive care unit and how these biofilm reservoirs may influence hospital-acquired infection.

Dr. Jess first realised her passion for science in high school. She said “it was an interest in genetics that went down a rabbit hole of understanding how illness and disease are passed on through generations. At university there were not a lot of genetics-related courses, I took more varied science courses and shifted my focus to microbiology.”

More recently, Dr. Jess has finished working on a 4.5-year Innovative Manufacturing CRC grant, which focused on researching biofilm-related illness/contamination including urinary tract infection, chronic wounds, and reusable device contamination. The grant included research partners University of Sydney and the University of NSW, which invested $6 million in the advanced research. The research generated multiple internationally peer-reviewed publications.

She said, “I am continuing my work that was related to this grant, researching reusable medical device cleaning and disinfection strategies using a simulated endoscopy model in the lab”.

Through her studies and work, she has become a specialist fascinated with biofilms. A biofilm is a thin layer of microorganisms adhering to a surface. Think of a ‘glue-like slime’ that protects and promotes bacterial growth.

Dr. Jess has spoken at a number of Industry events and seminars on her research and findings on biofilms. More recently, she attended the American Society of Microbiology Conference on biofilms in Charlotte in the USA.

Dr. Farrell said “the fact that we can’t see these little bugs [in biofilms] with the naked eye and yet they can cause such problems across so many areas like medicine and the food industry. But on the other hand, we can harness some of their capabilities to produce some of the most loved items like cheese, wine, and beer”.

She further added, “[Biofilms] ability to organise themselves into communities and the protection it affords them is quite fascinating”.

In five years’ time, Dr. Jess sees herself managing Whiteley’s microbiology laboratory “I enjoy supervising and the attention to detail that’s needed in management level work”.

Dr. Jess’s advice for young women wanting to enter the field of science: “Just go for it and don’t limit yourself to a single science stream from the outset. Test out different sciences to find the one that’s right for you”.

We thank Dr. Jess for sharing her insights and career journey with us. We look forward to seeing your ongoing contributions to improving Healthcare.

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