The warning from teenager career counselor Cheryl Praeger only made it harder for the young student to study the subject at university

“I got angry and stubborn and I wanted even more to study math,” she recalls

She was the first female mathematics professor in Western Australia – after Hanna Neumann in Canberra, the second in the country

Now the University of Western Australia professor emeritus – a winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for Science, inducted into the WA Women’s Science Hall of Fame and received many other awards and posts – has been named Companion of the Order of Australia , the highest honor at the Australia Day Awards

“I’m just so pleased that there is this recognition for mathematicians, for math, for science, for women in science in this country”

Professor Praeger grew up in Queensland and knew from a young age that she wanted to study numbers

“By the end of my high school career, I wanted to learn as much math as I could – I have no idea if it would lead to a job or a career, but I just wanted to really understand it

Professor Praeger ignored her advisor’s advice and studied math and science at the University of Queensland He opened the doors to scholarships in Canberra and Oxford, taught worldwide, and was consecutively recognized for groundbreaking achievements

She crossed paths with the first female professor of mathematics at an Australian university – Hanna Neumann – while she was at the Australian National University

“I think it is extremely important to see that there is a woman in certain roles,” said Professor Praeger

“When I was a student I had two lecturers – so it didn’t seem entirely off plan that I wanted to pursue mathematics further”

A black and white photo of Professor Praeger at the age of 35 hangs on the wall of her family house

It was then that she got her role as a professor at the University of Western Australia The photo shows her on a modified bicycle, her two young sons sitting on their backs while her husband John Henstridge walks beside them

The picture on the front page of the Western Australian newspaper, although Mr Henstridge has been cut out

Professor Praeger said there would be a whole new world to discover once she was offered the job

“It was new to have a job at university, have young children and keep working,” she said

“I didn’t have a role model to ask how to make this work”

“It was unheard of to be away from the kids for so long,” she said

“To keep up to date, attend conferences and do one of the most important research projects of my life”

Professor Praeger’s AC Honors are recognition of her outstanding service to math and higher education to international organizations; and as an advocate for women in STEM careers

“Maybe we’re not equals yet, but there are maybe 30 women who are math professors in universities all over Australia,” she said

For young people sitting in meetings with career counselors, she hopes things have changed because of their own experience

“I hope you don’t get any advice that might prevent you from doing something,” said Professor Praeger

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List of Australia Day Honors 2021, List of Australia Day Honors 2021, List of Australia Day Awards 2021

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-26/professor-cheryl-praeger-receives-companion-order-of-australia/13089958