Shining light on State’s female scientists

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Shining light on successful South Australian women in science is part of a new Flinders University project to inspire more females to pursue a career in the lab.

Opening the public’s eyes and minds to science and the bright achievements of female scientists, Flinders Univesity‘s Victoria Square building will light up in an architectural illumination with the help from Adelaide projection art company Illuminart tonight (August 19), from 7pm to 9pm.

It’s part of the Illuminating the Face of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) campaign, led by the STEM Women Branching Out group.

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A mock image of Flinders University’s Victoria Square architectural illumination

Spokeswoman for the group, Dr Maria Parappilly, says the campaign is about “breaking down the stereotype that STEM careers are predominantly for males, and inspiring more girls and women to pursue careers in the field of science”.

Women are reportedly underrepresented in all areas of STEM. In 2011, only 33% of all tertiary qualifications were awarded to Australian women in STEM fields.

“Given many highly successful female STEM scientists in South Australia, through this project we aim to help change the stereotype that STEM is predominately for males and that there are very successful females amongst our community,” Dr Parappilly says.

The project has also included mobile demonstrations in and around Rundle Mall, featuring illuminations of women who have made notable contributions in STEM fields.

Wearing lab coats illuminated by digital animations, some of South Australia’s most successful women in science have been staging random mobile projections to share stories about their research and career paths in the sciences.

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Dr Maria Parappilly says the campaign is about “breaking down the stereotype that STEM careers are predominantly for males”

“It is becoming clear that toys and visual media play wonders in encouraging girls and young women through increased representation of successful and strong female leaders in STEM,” Dr Parappilly says.

She says LEGO has even started to design and add more female scientist figures.

Some of the females profiled in the campaign include: South Australian Chief Scientist, Dr Leanna Read; Flinders Distinguished, Professor Karen Reynolds; Flinders nanotech, Professor Amanda Ellis; mathematician, Professor Cheryl Praeger; and well-known South Australian physicist, Professor Tanya Monro.

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Wearing lab coats illuminated by digital animations, some of the State’s most successful STEM women share their research stories

For Illuminart creative director, Cindi Drennan, it’s exciting to “have an innovative opportunity to show how brilliant art can be in promoting science”.

“We all know how hard it is to talk about science in a way that is heard or understood in the broader, non-science community but already students are finding a new voice through projection art, and loving the experience,” Cindi says.

STEM Women Branching Out will also launch the ongoing Science 50:50 mentorship program at Flinders at Tonsley today to further encourage young girls pursue a career in STEM.

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