Sydney teen only girl in team for science and maths Olympiad

Olympic pick: Manjekah Dunn is the only female student representing Australia at the Science and Mathematical Olympiads. Picture: Janie Barrett

Olympic pick: Manjekah Dunn is the only female student representing Australia at the Science and Mathematical Olympiads. Picture: Janie Barrett

When Manjekah Dunn pulls on her green and gold blazer to represent Australia at the olympic games for science and maths next month, the Sydney teenager will be in a league of her own.

The talented scientist, who hopes to study medicine and pursue a career in neurology, is the only female in the team.

Thirteen of Australia’s 23-strong team – selected from 25,000 contenders who sat qualifying exams around the county – come from Sydney, and come from a mix of 10 public and private schools.

The International Science and Mathematical Olympiads are among the toughest science and mathematics competitions, drawing 2000 of the brightest students from around the world.

Manjekah, 17, has earned a spot in Australia’s biology team to compete in Bali. The chemistry competition will take place in Hanoi and Kazakhstan will host the physics competition.

Manjekah, who is also studying chemistry for her Higher School Certificate, said she was not concerned about being the only female on the team.

‘‘I see everyone as my friends and we are all the same,’’ Manjekah said. But she worries science is too male-dominated.

‘‘I hope I can inspire more females into science,’’ the Baulkham Hills High student said.

Since 2004, 130 Australian students have competed in the science Olympiad. Only 32 of those have been female.

The chairwoman of Australian Science Innovations Gunilla Burrowes said science and maths still battled a perception problem, and many young females considered science as a study option for males.

‘‘There is still a hidden gender bias, which I think is a community and cultural thing,’’ Ms Burrowes said.

She said more young people, male and female, could be encouraged to study science and maths if they had higher profiles. ‘‘I wish our young scientists had the same recognition as some of our most talented athletes,’’ Ms Burrowes said.

The University of Sydney's maths and science ambassador Adam Spencer will present the Australian students with their team blazers at a function at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday.

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