BLOG: Science - in Naomi’s DNA

8 March 2019
Chief scientist Naomi Speers presenting at a International Women's Day Infuential Women in Forenics event this week.

In recognition of International Women’s Day, ASADA would like to introduce our Chief Science Officer Naomi Speers.

If you joked that science is in Naomi Speers’ DNA, you wouldn’t be far wrong. After all, there are three scientists and two engineers in the family.

“My interest in science probably started at the dinner table,” she says.

“At end of high school, I was looking for a branch of chemistry which would be interesting, varied, applied, and help people. I definitely found it.”

A Bachelor of Science (Forensics) and a PhD in Fingerprint development from the University of Technology, Sydney, followed; as well as a Masters of Art (Intelligence) from Charles Sturt University.

Naomi, ASADA’s Chief Science Officer, joined the Authority in 2015 in what she says was a “significant change” to her previous role.  

“While it was different, I was able to apply the same skills and abilities,” she says. “One of the great things about anti-doping science is that it covers a wide range of disciplines of science.”

At ASADA, Naomi’s scope covers analytical chemistry, toxicology, pharmacy and physiology.

Her responsibilities include strategic advice on how advances in science could be incorporated into ASADA’s operations, providing operational advice such as which testing would be most effective in certain situations, and managing relationships with key stakeholders such as the Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory (ASDTL).

She says her role has not been without challenges, such as moving from a large organisation to a small organisation, and working within an international framework.

From 2002-2015, Naomi worked in the Chemical Criminalistics team for Australian Federal Police Forensics on domestic and international assignments.

She was involved in major operations, such as bombings in Indonesia and the downing of the aeroplane MH17, and for six years was the team’s leader.

“[The AFP] provided me with new opportunities to challenge myself to see my skills as broader than technical.”

Her roles included examining and analysing chemical trace evidence including fibres, explosives, and ignitable liquids.

Naomi, a mother-of-two daughters, says she has enjoyed her “ever-changing” working environment and insists her career progress has been “primarily unplanned”.

“At each stage I considered the options available or opportunities presented and made decisions about which of those options seems best at the time,” she says.

“I’ve been very blessed by supportive supervisors and colleagues who were and are willing to support work-life balance and encouraged and allowed me to take on opportunities which may not have appeared to fit.”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, Naomi says the motto “Don’t try to have it all, but choose what is important at the time” always worked for her.