Thursday, 8 February 2018

“…I worried a lot about taking the ‘wrong’ path, and what I’ve realised latterly is that there is no ‘wrong’ path and as long as you keep moving forward, meeting new people and learning you’ll find your place…”- Dr. Helen Maynard-Casely

Dr. Helen Maynard-Casely is an instrument scientist for the WOMBAT high-intensity powder diffractometer at the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering, which is part of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s (ANSTO) site outside Sydney. She assists and collaborates with visiting scientists, works with the sample environment team in commissioning new equipment for WOMBAT and is co-responsible for improving and expanding the capabilities of the instrument. Her expertise is in the study of small molecules and ices under pressure and much of this work is motivated by the wish to understand the interiors of planetary bodies.

‘Big’ science
Hello! I’m an instrument scientist for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), based just outside sunny Sydney. One of the things ANSTO does (aside from making nuclear medicine, environment research and assisting industry) is that we run large scientific instruments for the Australian and overseas community. I’m co-responsible for one of these instruments (known as WOMBAT) which is a neutron diffractometer – able to find the location of atoms within pretty much any solid material. I’ve been working with ‘big’ science facilities like this since my Ph.D., first undertaking experiments at them before landing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne, which lead me to the position I now have at ANSTO.

From Cambridgeshire to Sydney 
In making the move from the UK to Australia I suppose my first motivation was to get somewhere with hills! But, undoubtedly the vast skies we have in Cambridgeshire inspired me – you can see so many of the stars and this probably ignited my curiosity in the planets (helped a bit by TV programmes like the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures and BBC’s The Planets). I knew for a long time I wanted to work in science without really knowing what that would actually be like – I didn’t know any scientists growing up. Getting to uni seemed to be the biggest goal then, and what I learnt there was that science is a truly international business, and that there were some interesting possible careers to be had. I did a Ph.D., partially because I wanted to explore more, but also because I wanted to keep options open for as long as possible. The Ph.D. enabled me to learn a ‘science trade’ (high-pressure crystallography), but also gain a host of skills in writing, presenting, working as part of a group, cool experiments and even networking at conferences. I feel that having that sort of training can set you up for an interesting and flexible career – both in research and out of it. 

 Relocating to Australia
I didn’t have any hesitations about the move at all ready, though the real clincher was the fact that Australia would offer a working visa to my husband as well (other places didn’t), and the timing worked well for both of us, which really helped us make a success of the move. I took a bit of advice from my supervisors at the time too. From that I gathered that Australia has always been strong in my research ‘trade’ (crystallography) but there were less high-pressure scientists and less of them applying these experiments to planetary science – so I guess I saw some opportunity to spread my wings a bit.

Collaborating with NASA
It’s an absolute perk of the job to form good collaborations, you learn so much new about your research area as the best collaborations arise when people all bring unique skills and insight to the problem. My work with the planetary ices group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory came about when they had found a new material but needed someone to help solve its crystal structure. They happened to be at a conference where I presented some work on solving the structure of a similar material and we got chatting from there. I’ve also really enjoyed collaborating with colleagues in Japan – I got to go out there for a three-month visit in 2014, and I was so impressed by their approach to scientific instrumentation. I got so much out of that trip. 

Advice to girls and women interested in careers in science 
If you can keep doing what interests you, I don’t think you can go wrong. I worried a lot about taking the ‘wrong’ path, and what I’ve realised latterly is that there is no ‘wrong’ path and as long as you keep moving forward, meeting new people and learning you’ll find your place. I suppose there’s also a balance to be struck about listening to advice from others, and carving your own path that can be difficult – try to limit people from having a negative impact on your outlooks. During my Ph.D. I was told: “You don’t want to be an instrument scientist” – and I’m glad I ignored that advice and stuck to what I wanted. 

Risks of the progress that’s been made breaking down gender stereotypes being lost
This is part of that ‘unwanted’ advice, the influence that those stereotypes have on people. Though I’m hoping that a tide is turning, people are becoming more aware of the norms that they have created and are more willing to accept differences. I love the stuff that the site A Mighty Girl promotes, and refer my friends there all the time (plus is a great place to look for Christmas and birthday presents for little people). 

Plans for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 
Ha! I think that last time I took part in Womanthology (ahead of International Women’s day in 2017) I mentioned that I’d be at the Australian Synchrotron collecting data on an experiment simulated Europa – and, guess what… I’ll be doing something very similar for International Day of Women and Girls in Science. I’ll be back at the Synchrotron (I promise that I’m not there all the time, it’s usually three days or so a year!) with some of the crew from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this time looking at materials relevant to Saturn’s moon, Titan.
Coming up next 
This year is going to be exciting for me as I’m starting to supervise my first Ph.D. student – she’ll be based in UK for a year before coming to work at ANSTO for two years. I’m excited because I think it’s a scheme that will set her up really well, and it’s about passing on my science trade – high-pressure crystallography. I’m also doing a bit more teaching, mainly on the intensive courses we run for scientists wanting to learn techniques in neutron scattering and diffraction – planning to get organised with my resources and try and improve them. 

This article is dedicated by Helen to Kia Wallwork for being a mentor, friend and an all-round inspiration to her.
This article was originally publish on Womanthology. Read the original article at

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

It all started from a chess game- Prof Michelle Simmons

We are so proud and extremely excited to see a female physicist as Australian of the year 2018. The 50-year-old mother of three is a professor in quantum physics at the University of New South Wales, and has placed Australia at the forefront of research that could reshape the way we live.
To know how a chess game led her to where she is now, read more Here

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Lecturing Position Opportunity

A lecturing position is available in the University of Melbourne  (The Jacob Haimson and Beverly Mecklenburg Lectureship) and it is female only applicant.  From more info see link here

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

MAGIC 2017 - Mentoring and Guidance in Careers Workshop

Professors Mahananda Dasgupta (ANU) and Nalini Joshi (The University of Sydney)
are presenting the inaugural MAGIC 2017 - Mentoring and Guidance in Careers Workshop, a project that seeks to support women and gender diverse identities in Mathematics and Physics. The project particularly targets early career researchers (within 0-7 years of PhD completion).

All the information can be found at the MAGIC 2017 website which states:

"The inaugural MAGIC Workshop will present an opportunity to explore the many facets of forging a career in academic, government or industry settings, and to discuss how to create building blocks for success and resilience in careers."

The number of places is limited upon application and those seeking to be a part of the event should head over to the website to find out more.

Do you qualify? Are you interested? We would love to know if you are!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

2017 Women in Physics Lecturer schedule

Dr Katie Mack – On everything you wanted to know about Dark Matter but were afraid to ask

We are so excited to finally announce the dates for Katie's' tour around the country in July and August this year.  Katie will be presenting a range of talks, from public lectures to school talks and even breakfasts. Come along to learn everything you wanted to know about dark matter – the strange, invisible material seemingly suffusing the universe with five times the abundance of ordinary matter  and her career as a woman in physics.

Katie is tweeting her progress of the tour with the #WiPtour hastag - check it out to see where she's flying to today!

Women in Physics Lecture Series with Katie Mack comes to: 

Perth – 19 July schools event at Murdoch Uni & public lecture at UWA
Melbourne – 20 July public lecture at Uni Melb / 21 July Girls in Physics breakfast in Hawthorn
Geelong – 21 July school lecture at Kardinia College
Toowoomba – 24 July student lecture & public lecture at the University of Southern Queensland 
Ipswich – 25 July school lecture & public lecture TBC 
Brisbane – 26 July event TBC 
Canberra – 27 July Girls in STEM breakfast & public lecture at ANU / 28 July two school talks TBC 
Newcastle – 31 July two school talks TBC 
Wollongong – 1 August school talk at St Mary’s and university talk & public lecture at UOW 
Sydney – 2 August school talk at Knox Grammar & university talk at UNSW / 3 August public lecture at Macquarie University 
Launceston – 7 August school talk at Don College 
Devonport – 7 August school talk at Launceston College 
Hobart – 8 August school talks at Elizabeth College and The Friend’s School & public lecture at UTas / 9 August school talk TBC 
Adelaide – 10 August school talk at Mt Barker / 11 August talk at Adelaide University TBC 
Bendigo – 14 August public lecture at La Trobe University 
• And Melbourne again – 15 August Girls in Physics breakfast & public lecture at La Trobe University 

 There are a lot of dates and events, so  keep an eye on the  AIP calendar for details of an event near you.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The hunt for the Superstars of STEM to engage more women in science

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The new Superstar in STEM ambassador Lisa Harvey-Smith at the Australian Astronomical Observatory’s 3.9m Anglo-Australia Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory. Author provided
Lisa Harvey-Smith, CSIRO
Superstars of STEM is a new program by Science and Technology Australia that aims to smash the stereotypical portrait of people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Conversation
The plan is to identify 30 superstar women currently in STEM, and work with them to create role models for young women and girls, and thus move towards equal representation in the media of men and women in STEM.
As the new ambassador and a mentor for Superstars of STEM, my role is to encourage broad participation, which we hope will elevate the visibility of women STEM professionals in public life.

Encouraging more women in STEM

There are already some programs that support female scientists and technologists in a bid to break down systemic obstacles. These include the Science in Australia Gender Equity program. Others aim to inspire women to study STEM subjects, such as Code like a Girl or to help young women build their techno-confidence, such as SheFlies and Robogals.
Adding to this picture, Superstars of STEM aims to address public perception and is founded on the principle that visibility matters in achieving equality.
Rather than simply attempting to shoehorn women into the public eye, this new program will work with 30 women in STEM to equip them with the skills, confidence and opportunities to become role models. This approach will build on the work being done to address systemic issues facing female scientists and technologists.
A recent European study by Microsoft found that most girls became interested in STEM at around the age of 11, but their interest began to wane at 15. This is an important age, as girls are starting to make decisions that will set the trajectory of their academic life.
The lack of role models in STEM was identified as the key factor that influenced the girls in the study, as well as a lack of practical experience with STEM subjects at school. On Twitter, 92% of the most followed scientists are male. When women scientists are mentioned in the media, they often tend to be described by their appearance rather than their achievements.
The need for more female STEM role models has also been echoed in similar reports and programs in Asia, the UK, Africa and the United States.
In Australia, more than half of all undergraduates and half of PhD students are female. Almost 60% of junior science lecturers are women. But women comprise just 16% of top-level science and technology researchers, professors and professionals.

Role models

As a young kid gazing at the stars, my role models were pioneering astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and eccentric types such as the late, great astronomy broadcaster Sir Patrick Moore.
I thought that was enough for me, until as a 16-year-old I met Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman, at Space School UK. At that moment I suddenly realised that every one of my role models in the fields of astronomy and space science had been male.
Meeting this real-life STEM superstar had a transformational influence on me. It even spurred me on to apply for the European Astronaut Program in 2009.
As someone who is passionate about astrophysics and science education I have inadvertently become a role model myself.
But the continued lack of diverse role models in STEM makes me wonder how many missed opportunities and how much unrealised potential continues to be lost. Have our young, modern-day Marie Curies, Ruby Payne-Scotts, Ada Lovelaces and Isobel Bennetts passed up on science as a subject in favour of more conventional choices?

The new superstars

In its first year, Superstars of STEM is placing 30 women in the public eye, by equipping them with advanced communication skills. This will include media training, meetings with decision-makers, and opportunities to showcase their work.
Participants will also be supported to speak with girls directly at local high schools and public events, along with establishing a public profile online.
There are too few transformational and brilliant women in the public eye. Every success in science and technology in Australia is built on the work and contributions of people across the genders. For the sake of our girls,we need to celebrate these outstanding scientists and their work.
I imagine a time when we ask children to draw a scientist and they draw somebody who looks like mathematician Nalini Joshi, molecular biologist Suzanne Cory, or astronomer Karlie Noon.

The measure of the success of Superstars of STEM will be whether young Australian women can turn on the television, read a newspaper or engage with social media and see women experts presenting STEM as an exciting and viable career. I can’t wait to witness the opportunities this change will bring.

This article was co-authored with Kylie Walker, Chief Executive Officer of Science and Technology Australia.
Lisa Harvey-Smith, Group Leader - Australia Telescope National Facility Science, CSIRO
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Capstone Editing Grants & Scholarships

Please see grants and scholarships  announced by Capstone Editing including:

  • Early career academic research grant for women (Open now till 30th of  May 2017)
  • Carer's travel grant for academic women (Open now till 30th of May 2017)
  • Conference travel grant for postgraduate students (Open now till 1st of June 2017)
  • Laptop grant for postgraduate course work students (Open now till 1st of June 2017)
  • Research scholarship for honor students ( will be open on 1st Jan 2018)
  • Textbook grants for undergraduates (Open now )
Please see the link below for more information.