Crimes and bugs land Murdoch researcher acclaim


Dr Paola Magni has been nominated for West Australian of the Year in the professional category. Picture: Supplied

While Paola Magni has helped solve some of the grizzliest crimes, she says her mission to empower women in science is one of her toughest jobs yet.

The Murdoch University forensic scientist has been short-listed for the gong of West Australian of the Year in the professionals category.

Dr Magni is one of five people in the shortlist, which celebrates the work of West Australian researchers and scientists.

As a young girl, Dr Magni says she was more interested in bugs and critters than dolls and trains.

“I didn’t know what to do in terms of what job, but I knew it had to be connected with something in nature,” she said.

Dr Magni’s innate love of biology led her into forensics and she is now recognised as a world-leading expert in all things insects.

Dr Magni has worked everywhere, from labs to out in the field, and even TV sets. Picture: Supplied

Her research has helped find justice in dozens of trials, and a “twist” in her career even led to her advising TV crews on shows like CSI Italy.

“I like the idea of using science for justice,” she said.

“If you think that my job can give credibility to justice, this can bring lots of closure to families and understanding.”

One case in particular has always stood out to Dr Magni. She worked on a string of female homicides, which hit “very close to the heart.”

“All of these females that I investigated were young and were dumped somewhere with a plastic bag on their head,” she said.

“It’s difficult not thinking about this being another young woman who was violated and the murderer wasn’t even brave enough to look them in the face.”

Dr Magni now teaches the next generation of scientists to help them follow their dreams. Picture: Supplied

Those cases set Dr Magni on a journey to “improve the system.”

She is now an ambassador for Lifeline and gives “inspiring talks” to young women looking to get into science. She even takes her children to events to show that women in the workplace can juggle parenthood and a career.

While she doesn’t have high hopes of actually taking home the West Australian of the Year award, she wants to be seen as a relatable role model, pushing girls to pursue their dreams.

“I really want to empower women to understand each other,” Dr Magni said.

“You see a scientist, you see a great person.

“You don’t want to have a role model that is too far away from you.”