Communications & Media

Researchers selected in national Superstars of STEM program

Two University of Tasmania researchers are among 30 women scientists and technologists nationwide who have been selected as the first Superstars of STEM.

Dr Fiona Kerslake (TIA research fellow, pictured) and Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas (ACE-CRC/AAD) were chosen from 300 applicants to be a Superstar, with the successful candidates to receive training and development to use social media, TV, radio and public speaking opportunities to carve out a more diverse face for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Science & Technology Australia President-Elect Professor Emma Johnston said studies in the USA and other countries similar to Australia had shown female STEM professionals were significantly under-represented.

“Superstars of STEM is the first program of its kind and will prove vital for the future of STEM in Australia,” Professor Johnston said.

“Often when you ask someone to picture or draw a scientist, they will immediately think of an old man with white hair and a lab coat.

“We want Australian girls to realise that there are some amazing, capable and impressive women working as scientists and technologists too, and that they work in and out of the lab in places you might not expect,” she said.

“Science and technology have made our lives longer, happier, healthier and more connected – with more girls considering STEM careers, we have the potential to achieve so much more.”

Professor Johnston said the participants in this world-first program hailed from nearly every state and territory; from the public, academic and private sectors; and from all sorts of scientific and technological backgrounds.

The successful applicants were recently announced by the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO.

Dr Fiona Kerslake

Dr Kerslake grew up on a sheep farm in Tasmania, but after completing her Honours in sheep drench efficacy, found it was Pinot noir wine which held her intrigue.

After living in New Zealand for 18 months, her interest intensified to the point of commencing her PhD studies at the University of Tasmania with an industry embedded project.

Since completing her doctorate, Fiona has remained with the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) and has built and maintained outstanding relationships with the Australian wine industry, leading to both industry and RDC-funded projects.

Fiona gained international experience after working as a viticultural research intern for E&J Gallo in California, the world's largest wine company. She has been invited to the UK, Portugal, France, Canada, USA, Italy and most recently Estonia to present her research outcomes and to gather more knowledge to bring back and share with relevant Australian industries.

Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas

Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas is a research scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division and a project leader with the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre.

In her work, she uses mathematical models of marine ecosystems to understand how these systems function and how they might respond to climate change and other human activities. She is highly engaged in the translation of science into decision-making.

Jess was awarded her PhD in Quantitative Marine Science from the University of Tasmania in 2010. She was a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford from 2003-2005.

Jess is passionate about encouraging greater representation of women in science leadership, and is the co-founder of the Homeward Bound project which took 78 women with a background in science on a leadership journey to Antarctica in 2016.

Picture credit: Chris Crerar

Published on: 07 Jul 2017 8:50am