Finding her place in the universe

18 Mar 2021 | 2 mins

Renu Sharma’s name couldn’t be more perfect.

Renu – whose name means ‘a small particle or atom’ and signifies the place of humankind in the universe – is the Chief Operating Officer at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).

At ICRAR, she oversees the strategic and operational planning that enables scientists to, among other research, examine the origin of stars, galaxies and black holes.

She’s also travelled across the world to reach Perth.

Renu Sharma

Image: Renu Sharma is the Chief Operating Officer at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.

Born in India to a Hindu Brahmin family, she completed her PhD in nematology (roundworms), before working for the Indian Ministry of Agriculture, meeting her husband and having twins.

When her husband was made a job offer by the WA Government, their family made the move from Delhi to Perth.

With limited opportunities, Renu had to start her career afresh. Initially she worked at TAFE. Then, in 2002, she became the manager at UWA’s School of Physics, and subsequently of the School of Plant Biology, before moving to ICRAR in 2009.

Alongside this, she’s a member of the University’s Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Working Group.

In all these roles, she’s loved her work.

“In my management roles I’ve really enjoyed contributing to equitable, inclusive and innovative environments to support and enable research,” she said.

“While we come from very diverse backgrounds, there are some common core values, principles and beliefs that bring us together.

“I believe that people with whom we meet and interact influence us, teach us and guide us in one way or another in our journey of life.”

However, it’s her family that come first.

She now has four grandchildren who are the “joy of her life”.

“The most important influences on my personal and professional growth have been my parents, Beeji, my husband and my family, who gave me the support, affection and values that helped me become the person I am,” she said.

She’s keen to ensure her children and grandchildren understand and value their cultural heritage and stay connected to their family in India.

Renu speaks Hindi, English, Punjabi and Himachal dialect, and is teaching her grandchildren Hindi through a somewhat unusual medium – her own poems!

“Leaving India and my familiar environment and immigrating to Australia brought out the poet in me,” she said.

“I’ve written many poems in my mother tongue, Hindi, that ring true with feelings of many who have left their home country.”

While she values her heritage, her focus is very much on her present and the future.

“I look forward to meeting many more good people in my life and continuing to learn from them,” she said.

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