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Start seeing our Superstars of STEM

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A CSIRO DNA history detective, an Indigenous astrophysicist, an agricultural scientist, a biomedical engineer and a mathematician working on defence force protection are the ACT’s next official superstars of STEM.

Today, Thursday 3 December, 60 brilliant women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics have volunteered to step into the spotlight as media stars and to smash stereotypes.

Among them are five Canberrans ready to take their place, including CSIRO DNA history detective Dr Erin Hahn, ANU biomedical engineer Dr Kiara Bruggeman, Gamilaraay astrophysicist Karlie Noon, Defence Science and Technology Group mathematician Dr Cayt Rowe, and Department of Agriculture Water and Environment agricultural scientist Dr Rachel Iglesias.

Dr Kiara Bruggeman has produced more than 20 publications and presented research talks around the world, in a field called tissue engineering, or regenerative medicine, which focuses on encouraging cells to heal themselves by providing structural support and biochemical guidance.

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 underrepresented in STEM…These powerful role models will show girls that STEM is for them.

Dr Erin Hahn collects historical clues at the Australian National Wildlife Collection. Erin gathers information about the effects of environmental change by looking at the DNA of historical specimens.

Announcing the STEM superstars for 2021, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the program’s value lay in increasing the visibility of women in STEM so more young women could aspire to similar career paths.

“With STEM skills crucial to driving innovation and playing a significant role in preparing people for the jobs of the future, it’s essential that all Australians have the opportunity to participate in these fields.

Rachel Iglesius’s work contributes to the continual improvement of Australia’s biosecurity system, including animal health surveillance and emergency animal disease preparedness.

Since 2017, the first 90 Superstars of STEM have reached a global audience of more than 30 million, featured in over 4,800 news stories and spoken to more than 18,000 school students.

Since doing the program, current Superstar Dr Kudzai Kanhutu has become a regular on the ABC’s The Drum, regularly sharing her expertise in frontline health challenges, technology and current affairs.

Doctor Kayt Rowe has a PhD in statistics, Masters in cybersecurity strategy and diplomacy, first-class honours in mechanical engineering and a science degree in applied maths and physics.

Another current Superstar Dr Kate Cole generated front-page media in May that led to a ban on hundreds on unsafe masks, protecting frontline healthcare workers and the Australian public.

“There is no way I would have spoken to the media before the Superstars of STEM program, and if I hadn’t done that, more than 600 questionable masks would still be on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods,” she said.

Main Image: Karlie Noon was the first female, Indigenous Australian to graduate with combined degrees in mathematics and science after graduating in 2016 from the University of Newcastle. She has since completed a Masters of Astronomy and Astrophysics Advanced degree from the Australian National University in 2019,  in which she received a high distinction for her research into the Milky Way galaxy.

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