60 new Superstars of STEM

What does a scientist, an engineer, or a mathematician look like? On 3 December, Minister Karen Andrews unveiled 60 new faces joining the Superstars of STEM initiative; a program designed to empower women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to be public role models for girls and young women. Among them are nineteen women from NSW!

The initiative, run by Science & Technology Australia, is working to break down stereotypes about people who work in STEM. It does this by providing a diverse and talented group of women with advanced communication skills and public opportunities to use them. By increasing the visibility of women in STEM, the initiative is closing the gender gap in STEM-related media coverage, and creating role models for girls and young women.

The new Superstars reflects the strong diversity of women in STEM – including three Indigenous scientists and engineers, and a record number of Superstars from South Australia and the ACT.

Science & Technology Australia Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert said the program gave women in STEM the skills and confidence to step into expert commentary roles in the media.

“It’s hard to be what you can’t see,” she said. “Women are still seriously under-represented in STEM – especially at the senior leadership levels.”

“The Superstars of STEM program sets out to smash stereotypes of what a scientist, technologist, engineer or mathematician look like – these powerful role models show girls that STEM is for them.”

“We thank the Australian Government for its strong support of this important program, which is already having a profound impact.”

“Sustaining this type of program for the long-term is more important than ever amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic on women in the STEM workforce.”

One of the new Superstars is Dr Alexandra Campbell, a seaweed researcher and co-founder of the Seaweed Research Group at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Dr Campbell leads projects that investigate how seaweeds can restore damaged ecosystems, improve food production and enhance human health.

Other dynamic women joining Superstars of STEM include Karlie Noon, Indigenous Astrophysicist and Sydney Observatory’s first Astronomy Ambassador, Priyanka Pillai, a health informatics specialist, and proud Tharawal woman Renne Wootton, an aerospace engineer and commercial pilot.

Since Superstars of STEM started in 2017, it has delivered exceptional results. So far, the program’s 90 Superstars have reached more than 30 million people, created over 4,800 media mentions, and engaged more than 18,000 kids.

The new Superstars will start their training and work in 2021. The Superstars of STEM initiative is one of the actions the government is taking to increase the visibility of women in STEM, as part of its Advancing Women in STEM strategy.

Meet our NSW Superstars

Congratulations to these brilliant nineteen women from NSW who were selected as Superstars from a highly competitive national field.

  • Wildlife conservation researcher combatting illegal wildlife trafficking – Dr Vanessa Pirotta
  • University of Newcastle Future energy technologies engineer – Dr Jessica Allen
  • University of Newcastle coastal engineering expert – Dr Hannah Power
  • University of New England palaeontologist and geologist – Dr Marissa Betts
  • University of New England biomedical scientist in biological determiners of mental illness – Dr Mary McMillan
  • University of Wollongong coral reef fish behavioural biologist – Dr Marian Wong
  • University of Wollongong IT in early education researcher – Dr Holly Tootell
  • University of Wollongong chronic pain biologist – Dr Yee Lian Chew
  • Global data privacy expert – Privcore managing director Annelies Moens
  • ANSTO’s manufacturing manager for the OPAL reactor – Bianca Shepherd
  • Macquarie University volcano scientist – Heather Handley
  • UTS coral reef health and environmental scientist – Dr Jennifer Matthews
  • WesTrac manager and mathematician – Jessica Pritchard
  • UTS biomedical engineer in stem cell medicine – Dr Jiao Jiao Li
  • Macquarie University chemist and Indigenous bush medicine researcher – Dr Joanne Jamie
  • ANSTO Physicist and cancer researcher – Dr Mitra Safavi-Naeini
  • Macquarie University nanotech engineer – Dr Noushin Nasiri
  • Tharawal woman, aerospace engineer and commercial pilot – Renee Wootton
  • UNSW marine microbial biologist – Stephanie Gardner

Feature image by Rhett Wyman of the Sydney Morning Herald shows one of the Superstars of STEM, Indigenous Astrophysicist, science communicator and Sydney Observatory’s first Astronomy Ambassador, Karlie Noon, provided courtesty of Science Technology Australia. Learn more about the Superstars of STEM initiative.