Beneath the Waves: Journeying into the Secrets of Marine Microbiology with Jadranka

By Yongxin Lyu

In the vast world of science, there are extraordinary people who dedicate their lives to unravelling the mysteries of our planet. One such amazing scientist is Jadranka Nappi, a marine microbiologist with an insatiable curiosity and a deep love for the ocean. Originally from Italy, Jadranka’s journey led her to the shore of Australia, where she embarked on a path that combines studying and working with marine creatures, uncovering the fascinating world of marine microbiology. Let’s dive into Jadranka’s story and explore the wonders she encounters every day. 

Jadranka freediving at Montague Island, Narooma, NSW, Australia (photo by Victoria Gray).

Immersed in Passion: Jadranka’s Journey into Marine Microbiology

Jadranka, also known as Jadi, comes from a diverse background with Italian and Serbian roots. Her connection to the sea is embodied in her Serbian name “Jadranka”, which echoes the Adriatic Sea, a part of the Mediterranean Sea separating Italy and Croatia. Growing up, Jadi has been captivated by the enchanting wonders of marine life. Driven by an insatiable curiosity, she set her sights on becoming a marine biologist from an early age.

As she delved deeper into her undergraduate studies in marine biology in Italy, her fascination with the ocean only grew stronger. “I always had the dream to study humpback whales, and to be in the ocean all the time. It is under the waves where I am at my happiest”. When it came to her final project, an exciting opportunity came to explore the world of marine microbiology overseas. Jadi packed her bags and set off on a life-changing adventure to Australia.

Stepping into the new field of marine microbiology was a challenge for Jadi, but she enjoys the excitement of exploring new things. Several months as an exchange student in Sydney eventually led to 11 years of an academic journey dedicated to studying bacteria in the ocean. After completing a PhD in biotechnology at UNSW, Jadi secured a postdoctoral fellowship in the Centre of Marine Science and Innovation, collaborating with CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. 

Uniting Academia and Industry: Jadranka’s Exciting Collaborations

Jadi’s academic journey took an exciting turn when she entered her postdoctoral research which involves collaboration with an industry partner under the SIEF Ross Metcalf STEM + Business Fellowship with CSIRO. This unique collaboration allows Jadi to blend her knowledge of microbiology with insights from the business world. “I bring my knowledge about microbiology and bacteria, but I am also constantly learning about aquaculture, absorbing knowledge from every single person who works at the facility. I share successes and challenges with everybody, and I see how every day we all work towards the same goal. I am part of an incredible team”. 

Jadi finds great fulfilment in collaborating with the industry, appreciating the diverse knowledge and different approach it brings. The exchange of expertise creates a rich learning experience, where she constantly learns something new every single day.

A Life between Waves and Lab Coats: Jadranka’s Daily Pursuits

Jadranka on her field trip at the aquaculture facility (left), back in Sydney working at UNSW (middle), and with her dog Argo (right).

Jadi’s typical day is a dynamic mix of exciting fieldwork, laboratory analysis and academic responsibilities, depending on whether she is on field trips or back in Sydney. During field trips, she wakes up super early to embark on her marine research adventure. Working with marine animals in an aquaculture facility, Jadi takes care of them, does treatments, and collects samples. These samples are quickly processed in the on-site laboratory before being taken back to Sydney for further analysis.

Back in Sydney, Jadi’s day is quite different. The morning starts with walking her lovely dog, Argo. During the day, Jadi immense herself in office work, engaging in data analysis and writing research papers. Apart from doing research, Jadi also enjoys assisting PhD and honours students with their experiments and data analysis. 

Diving into Discovery: Jadranka’s Dual Life as a Researcher and Diver

Jadranka teaching scuba diving.

Jadi’s love for the ocean goes beyond her scientific work. Scuba diving and freediving are her greatest passions. Being in the water allows her to escape and find balance in her academic life, recharging her spirit. During her PhD studies, she worked as a scuba diving instructor on weekends, feeding her passion for underwater exploration. 

Inspiring the Next Generation: Jadranka’s Advice to Young Science Enthusiasts

With a strong desire to encourage young girls to pursue careers in STEM, Jadi has some valuable advice. She emphasizes the importance of curiosity and the courage to explore different fields. Jadi believes that by following their passions and being driven by patience and curiosity, young scientists can find fulfilment in their chosen paths. “Don’t be afraid of looking for something new, different from everything you know already. If you follow what makes you excited and a little scared at the same time, and if you do it with passion and eager to learn new things, it will take you somewhere incredible”. She encourages them to fearlessly pursue their interests, knowing that it is through curiosity and persistence that ground-breaking discoveries are made. 

Jadi’s journey into marine microbiology is an inspiring tale of passion, exploration, and the deep connection between science and the ocean. Her story reminds us that by following our curiosity and embracing the wonders of the natural world, we can unravel the mysteries that lie beneath the surface. Jadi’s work continues to shed light on the hidden world of marine microbes, inspiring future generations of scientists to dive into the thrilling realm of marine biology.

Follow Jadranka on Twitter: @JadrankaNappi


Blog 2023: A Safe Space to Share!


Greetings to all readers of the UNSW Women in Maths and Science blog! As we venture into a new year and chapter for 2023 cohort-8 and 9, we are ready to introduce the current editorial team that will keep you updated with inspiring and refreshing stories within the community of UNSW; but first…. some interesting news!!

As reported by the STEM Equity Monitor, Women’s enrolment in STEM higher education has shown a positive trend during the past years, with a 24% increase from 2019-2020 compared to a 9% increase for men. This is a promising start considering how women who chose STEM as their field in higher education relied on their interest and confidence within the field. However, the confidence level of women in STEM decreases with time and only 29% of those who complete further studies are employed in STEM occupations, compared to 37% of men. How do we boost women’s confidence to remain in STEM?

 As your new blog editors, we aim to explore and address this question throughout our journey together, by witnessing and sharing inspirational stories of remarkable champions – women who believed in their passion and pursued their potential, ultimately becoming part of the UNSW Women in Maths and Science program. The program has been created with the scope of enhancing the confidence and leadership skills of the participants by attending a series of workshops and outreach activities with the overarching goal of creating a wider community and becoming advocates and role models for the next generation of women and girls in STEM. 

We are here to support and strengthen the community together. Even more, we’d like to support you to share insights related to your research or other interest area with a broader audience outside the community. It is a safe space to share! Now, it is time to introduce ourselves:

Rola Gbayo


Hello! I am Rola Gbayo, a Visiting Fellow in the School of Chemistry at UNSW.  My current research on the mechanism of organic reactions in ionic liquids involves kinetic analyses using NMR spectroscopy to monitor the progress of reactions, along with synthetic organic and analytical chemistry, and aims to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of organic processes employed in the chemical industry, using this knowledge to design solvents that can effectively control reaction outcomes such as increasing reaction yield and optimizing isolation.  

Asides from my present role as a researcher, I am a chemistry educator (University of Lagos, Nigeria) involved in higher education curriculum development and teaching a variety of chemistry courses. I am passionate about undergraduate education and serve as a mentor to students, helping them develop their research interests and achieve success in the field.  

Being an editor of this year’s program blog, though without a formal background in journalism, gives me a platform to highlight the experiences and achievements of women and girls in STEM (including myself), to provide role models and mentors for young women who are interested in pursuing careers in these fields. I believe that by showcasing the incredible work of female scientists, engineers, and technologists, we can inspire a new generation of STEM leaders and help to create a more inclusive and diverse STEM workforce that reflects the full range of human talent and potential. 

Outside work, I love being a wife and a mother, spending time with my family engaging in several fun activities such as seeing movies, cooking, serving Christ and shopping.  


Yongxin Lyu 


Hello! I am a PhD candidate in the School of Materials Science & Engineering. My passion lies in the fascinating world of perovskites – a material with extraordinary optoelectronic properties. Instead of making perovskites in the lab, I use computational tools to virtually design perovskite models and use supercomputers to measure them. By using computational-guided materials discovery, I aim to identify new perovskite compositions that can revolutionize solar cell technology. 

The freedom to explore new things is what I find most thrilling about science. I enjoy playing around with atoms and crystal structures and using supercomputers to carry out fascinating simulations. While I’m naturally a shy and quiet person, I’m making an effort to have my own voice and reach out to the world. As an editor of the program blog, I hope to gain experience in sharing my ideas with others, and I hope to start my own blog someday.  

When I’m not exploring the world of perovskites, I enjoy pursuing my hobbies. I am a music enthusiast and can play a little bit of piano, guitar, and jazz drums. I also enjoy staying active through yoga, Pilates, and squash. Recently, I’ve taken up surfing, which has been a fun and challenging new adventure. 

Google Scholar:

Giulia Silvani


I’m Giulia, an early career researcher in the School of Material Science and Engineering at UNSW.  
My research focus is on the development of engineered biological platform to mimic vascularized tumour tissue and study the role of dynamic biophysical cues in molecular mechanism driving tumour cell invasiveness and metastasis.

The scientific journey that I’ve undertook to be here today, in this exciting university and working environment, has been one of the best adventures of my life and I’m grateful to take part of the Women in Maths and Science Champions Program 2023 so that I can share my experience and encourage girls and young women to pursue a career in science. I believe that without the inputs of women scientists and the unique perspectives they bring, scientific innovation and development will remain limited, and so will be our ability to address important challenges for the future of humanity.

As one of the new blog editors, I aim to provide visibility to everyone passionate about science, to promote their work and inspire future generations of scientists.  

If I’m not in the lab, you can find me cooking, playing piano or planning my next trip around the world. Although I haven’t been everywhere, it’s definitely on my list!! 

Research gate : 

Anikó Tóth

Hi everyone! I’m Anikó Tóth, a postdoctoral fellow in the Centre for Ecosystem Science within the School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences. My research revolves around understanding how ecosystems function, what makes them unique, and the ways in which they respond to rapid change. This includes a variety of research activities, such as measuring community structure during times of rapid change and modelling the health trajectories of ecosystems under future climate scenarios. Though my present role is focused on research, I am passionate about mentoring young people. I was lucky enough to have incredible women role models on my journey as a scientist, and I owe it to them to pay it forward! I enjoy helping others find the wonder and empowerment that science has given me, and being an editor for the blog this year will be a perfect avenue to give voice to my experiences and those of others.  

Outside of work, I am mum to a beautiful one-year-old son. I love all forms of arts and crafts, particularly drawing and painting. I keep things interesting dabbling in all kinds of sports (sometimes with baby in tow!). Figure skating, ultimate frisbee, kite surfing, aerial silks, diving, and skiing are some of my all-time favourites. I am passionate about work but never forget to live a little too 😊 


Yessi Affriyenni


Hi, everyone! I am a PhD candidate from the School of Physics. I am working on Physics Education Research (PER) focusing to explore the implementation of Research-Based Instructional Strategies (RBIS) for second-year physics education. Instead of doing it in a classic way—comparing conventional and active learning methods—my focus is to explore students’ and lecturers’ perceptions towards the employed methods in the classroom. Unique interactions between these methods and other factors such as course characteristics and the changes throughout the years are also being explored. Hopefully, it can be useful to improve the quality of teaching specifically for Physics and STEM in general. 

Science is always an interesting field of study and I love helping people to find the enjoyment I feel. Being an academic in my home country for four years before deciding to continue my study towards PhD, made me realize how happy I am to help others find their happiness and passion in science. While many people think that science is more related to abstract tiny things, it is always fun to realize that science is everywhere and applicable in daily life. Thus, working towards reforming science education in my home country—Indonesia—is one of my life goals once I finish my PhD. 

In addition to working in science education, I love doing other activities too. Cherishing the process, I’ve been consistently knitting garments for around ten years now, mainly for my four-year-old son. I also enjoy playing badminton to release excess energy, especially when life gets hard, smashing negative thoughts. Hopefully, by being an editor I can unleash my hidden potential—hopefully in writing if I have—and share positive things with the readers. 

Research Gate: 

Vanessa Huron

Hi everyone, I’m Dr Vanessa Huron. I realised my passion for translating research findings into educational learning while I was completing my PhD in Microbiology through the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, a platform from which I got involved in teaching various courses across Science, Medicine, and Engineering  

This love has stayed with me seven years later and I am fortunate to be working in a mixed education and research role within the School of Aviation, Faculty of Science. My research focuses on human factors and safety, accessibility management, and educational design and delivery applied across several domains, including psychosocial hazards and work re-design, safety and risk management, and digital technologies. In my educational role, I am delivering key initiatives for the School of Aviation’s undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, work-integrated learning, and life-long learning portfolios.  

As a first-generation Australian woman hailing from South-West Sydney and the first to graduate from university in my family, I am passionate about supporting women and low SES communities to dream of and actualise a career in STEM. 

Outside of work, I am very active, practising yoga, Pilates, and barre. I also love to cook and bake and watch food documentaries in between for inspiration. I am also a reptile mum to a nine-year-old Central bearded dragon named Toothless, who loves to sleep and eat crickets, capsicum and raspberries. 


Stay tuned for our upcoming blog posts that will showcase the brilliance of our Women in Maths and Science Champions. We’ll be sharing their inspiring stories, fascinating discoveries, and keen insights.

Before we wrap up, we want to give a big shout-out to all the incredible women who have generously shared their experiences and thoughts with us. Your voices are the driving force behind the change we’re aiming for, and we truly appreciate your contributions.

Thank you for being part of this amazing community. Get ready to embark on this thrilling adventure with us!