Jennifer Zenker: Making her Mark
ARMI group leader Dr Jennifer Zenker is here to make her mark on the field of stem cell research and on the Institute, as both a 2022 Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellow and the head of ARMI’s Diversity & Inclusion committee.
An initiative of the Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation, the prestigious fellowship means Jennifer will receive $1.375 million over five years to support her work in further characterising pluripotent stem cells. Using innovative live imaging and non-invasive light-inducible tools, Jennifer and her group of talented scientists, hope to better unravel how the cell biological regulation of stem cells can be used to harness these cells in regenerative medicine-based therapies.
The coveted fellowship was awarded to only three scientists this year, which speaks to the quality and the translational potential of Jennifer’s stem cell research.
Jennifer said, “I would like to thank the Sylvia and Charles Viertel Charitable Foundation for their generous support. I’m excited to be able to further my work using cutting-edge technology and innovative thinking, and to drive the development of potential new treatments for patients.”
Not only is Jennifer dedicated to her research, but she is also committed to fostering a nurturing and inclusive environment at ARMI as the head of the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) committee. The ethos of the committee is centered around embracing diversity and how that can catalyse scientific innovation. As in her nature/personality, Jennifer wanted to be ambitious in the committee’s goals.
“During the year, we wanted to focus on raising awareness and visibility across six key diversity pillars: gender, culture, LGBTQIA+, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Disability and Mental Health,” explained Jennifer. “Led by the committee, 7 institute-wide events that were aligned with our focuses were organised during the year. The highlight being ARMI’s 13th anniversary celebration, which served as the first in-person reunion of all ARMI staff and students after a 2-year COVID-19 hiatus.”
Not only that, but Jennifer and the D&I committee believe it is important to transform their learnings and convictions into tangible outcomes. To that end, in 2022, ARMI representatives served as STEM ambassadors at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander schools while investments in ARMI’s physical environment have been made to improve accessibility to all areas.
Jennifer added, “Our aspirations for 2023 are high. We’re committed to continuing our learning and to taking action. Above all, we want to make everyone feel welcome and respected.”
ARMI is lucky to have such a brilliant scientist and a passionate advocate for equity, inclusion and diversity amongst its leadership circle. Congratulations Jenny!