Jerusha Mather is an incredible young lady who is a living testament to the fact that your challenges in life don't define you. Jerusha is a neuroscience PhD student at Victoria University(Australia), who is also living with Cerebral Palsy. She was selected for the 2020 L'Oreal UNESCO for Women In Science (FWIS) Mentoring Program as well as selected for the Australian Academy of Science's group of Women STEM Changemakers.
Jerusha Mather is a scientist who did not listen to naysayers and doubters, and was determined to reach her goal of becoming a PhD student. She is also an advocate for improving access to STEM education for people living with disabilities. In addition to all of her 'awesomeness' in STEM, Jerusha is also a poet and you can find her poetry book on
We were able to catch up with Jerusha to ask her 10 questions as follows:
1. Growing up did you always think that you were going to do a PhD? If not, what was the turning point that made you realize you wanted to do a PhD?
I was looking for something to do after my honours year. I just happened to stumble upon the idea of completing a PhD in non-invasive brain stimulation and cerebral palsy, which is an area that really fascinated me. It was not easy finding a supportive research team, because not everyone in research and science is inclusive. I was rejected multiple times by research institutions and universities before finding a great research group to work with.
I am fortunate that my supervisors and the CP Alliance took a chance on me. However, I think it was ultimately my determination that conquered some.
2. How did you develop your interest in STEM?
I became curious about my experience living with cerebral palsy as a girl. I also wondered what could be done to improve the quality of life for someone similar to myself. Hence, my growing love for neuroscience and biology in school and university grew.
3. What are some ways to support people who are living with disabilities in STEM? What are some ways PI’s can make their labs more inclusive for people who are living with disabilities?
Give someone a chance! Understand the student’s needs and work with them to find their passions and improve their research and laboratory skills. Also, demonstrate a flexible and open minded attitude towards students.
4. Tell us about your PhD research?
My research has changed since the pandemic arrived. My current research topic is a survey on barriers in exercise in adults with cerebral palsy, which is an area that has not been thoroughly investigated yet.
5. What is your favorite part about being a PhD student?
I love discovering new knowledge, building connections, and presenting my findings. I am a creative person at heart and enjoy conveying science in an amusing manner. I also love the analytical and problem-solving sides of it all too!
6. What are your hobbies outside of STEM?
I love anything to do with music, writing poetry, watching movies and documentaries, and traveling to new spaces.
7. What is one thing that you want anyone who comes across your story to take away from it.
That if you believe in yourself, anything is possible. Do not wait for others to believe in you.
8. What is one thing you would tell your younger self?
Do not feel so sad. Enjoy life. Go with the flow, what is meant for you will come to you at the right time. Keep believing and expecting, keep challenging the status quo. YOU GOT THIS!
9. Tell us about your poetry book “Burnt Bones and Beautiful Butterflies”. What inspired you to write this book?
My poetry is about love, loss, grief and pain. It showcases the good in humanity, but also the brokenness. It explores the deeper aspects of life in simple but compelling words. I think there are a lot of jaw dropping and surprising moments for the reader to experience through my words and wisdom. That is the beauty of my poetry. I saw other poets on Instagram writing books and was motivated by their stories. l just decided to give it a shot and I accomplished it.
10. What advice would you give to all the young girls who want to go into STEM but doubt themselves.
Keep being persistent and work smarter towards your goals. DO NOT listen to the naysayers. Be your own cheer leader and believe in your confidence and instinct. You are born with unique abilities and skills, to make a positive difference in your world. Find ways to use those abilities and skills. Lastly, keep knocking on doors, the door that is meant for you will open and trust the process.
Is there anything else you would like to add? Any parting words?
Thank you for the opportunity to share my insights with you.
You can learn more about Jerusha Mather from these articles: https://womensagenda.com.au/leadership/profiles/jerusha-mather-and-her-crusade-to-enhance-the-lives-of-people-living-with-disability/
Linkedin: Jerusha Mather