Women are changing the world and UNSW Sydney women are leading the way. In the last month, two academics were named among the Best Female Scientists in the World – and top five in Australia – as ranked by Research.com, while five women – four alumnae and one current academic – were included on Sunday Life’s recent Trailblazers: 25 women reshaping Australia list. The special edition celebrates Sunday Life’s 25th anniversary and recognises the 25 most influential change-makers since the magazine was first published in 1997.  

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs said the recognition of influential women from the fields of science, politics, advocacy, and entertainment reflects the high calibre of graduates and academics the University produces.  

“I wholeheartedly congratulate the inspirational leaders and visionaries included among the best scientists in the world and those who were selected as part of Sunday Life’s special anniversary edition. It is a celebration of individuals who have inspired us and who are creating positive change for the future,” Prof. Brungs said. “Their many achievements serve as an inspiration for future female scholars, girls who aspire to be scientists and anyone who wants to change the world.”   

World’s best female scientists: 

The science research portal, research.com, compiled a list of 1000 leading female scientists from all major areas of science based on the number of citations and publications, the impact of research, as well as awards and achievements of the scientist.  

Read more: UNSW researchers among the most influential in the world

UNSW Professor Louise Degenhardt, a psychologist from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) ranked first in Australia and 84th globally. Professor Degenhardt is an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow and Deputy Director at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) in the Faculty of Medicine. Her research focuses on illicit drug use and its health effects and has shaped policy at a global level via advice to WHO, UNAIDS, and UNODC.  

Also in the top five in Australia was Professor Helen Christensen from the field of psychology. Professor Christensen is ranked fourth nationally and 173rd in the world. Prof. Christensen is a leading expert on using technology to deliver evidence-based interventions for the prevention and treatment of depression, anxiety, suicide and self-harm.  

There were 36 Australian scientists included in the rankings. 

Trailblazers and changemakers: 

Sunday Life marked its 25th-anniversary edition with a cast of female changemakers who have proven inspirational over the past 25 years, as well as those leading the charge ahead. Four UNSW alumnae and a current academic appear on the list: author and entrepreneur, Zoë Foster Blake (BA, Media '02); Aboriginal constitutional and human rights lawyer, Professor Megan Davis; Greens senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi (MEngSc'94, PhD'00); actor and advocate, Magda Szubanski (HonDLitt'19) and CEO of Macquarie Group, Shemara Wikramanayake (BCom/LLB'85).