A series of happy accidents have led UNE scientist Mary McMillan to Homeward Bound

SCIENCE isn’t a job you usually fall into.

FUTURE LEADER: University of New England molecular biologist Mary McMillan will travel to Antarctica with the Homeward Bound program. The experience aims to help women in science take leadership positions.

FUTURE LEADER: University of New England molecular biologist Mary McMillan will travel to Antarctica with the Homeward Bound program. The experience aims to help women in science take leadership positions.

But, that was the case for accidental scientist Mary McMillan.

She’s one of 75 women chosen to take part in Homeward Bound, a leadership program for women in science with a stopover in Antarctica.

“Data shows there are lots of women going into science, but if you look at the number of women in leadership roles – it’s lacking there,” Ms McMillan said.

“This was one of those things where you don’t know if you’re good enough to do it but you apply anyway, and I got in.”

A molecular biologist, Ms McMillan studies depression and how genes might contribute to the likelihood of getting the illness.

They look at biological factors to depression or markers in the blood that could be used to diagnose or treat depression more easily.

The year long program begins this month and will tackle women’s issues in male-dominated science, technology, engineering and maths industries.

It was really just a series of fortunate coincidences that led me to where I am now.

Mary McMillan

A mother herself, Ms McMillan said one of the big problems is support for women who want to have children and be professionally successful.

“It’s a really hot issue at the moment, it can be really difficult to get back into being competitive in the workplace after having a child,” she said.

“It can be tricky to balance work commitments with home life, particularly in science.

“In academia there’s a culture that you work as long as you can, you don’t want to do that when you’re a parent and I don’t think anyone should have to do that.

“It goes equally for both men and women.”

In December, Ms McMillan will travel from Argentina to Antarctica as part of the program.

She hopes it will teach her how to drive change in the workplace.

“It’s really cool, they take you away from most of the world in a way so you can focus on your own development,” she said.

“It was really just a series of fortunate coincidences that led me to where I am now.

“I’d love to learn more about how I can put my ideas forward and have people actually listen to them.”

Ms McMillan is crowdfunding part of her expedition, visit mycause.com.au and search Homeward Bound.

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