Two Tasmanian researchers make female STEM superstar list

SUPER STEM STAR: UTAS research fellow Dr Fiona Kerslake's work has been recognised at a national level. Picture: Chris Crerar
SUPER STEM STAR: UTAS research fellow Dr Fiona Kerslake's work has been recognised at a national level. Picture: Chris Crerar

Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture research fellow Dr Fiona Kerslake was recognised by Science & Technology Australia as a Superstar of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Dr Kerslake was one of 30 female scientists and technologists recognised on Monday, with Industry, Innovation and Science minister Arthur Sinodinos making the announcement.

After being encouraged to apply for the program, viticultural researcher Dr Kerslake was thrilled to hear she had made the cut on Friday.

“It’s very exciting. I don’t about being a superstar, but I do work in a male-dominated field and I think it’s good to gain those extra skills to extend STEM,” Dr Kerslake said.

“Most of my [communication] skills are self taught, but it will be good to get some direct skills. It’s going to be great,” she said.

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The STEM superstars will receive training and development in using social media and gaining media coverage and public speaking opportunities to share their work and inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

They will also receive training in influencing policy makers and business.

“It’s all about influencing young women to study STEM, spreading the message about women working in STEM and increasing my network,” Dr Kerslake said.

Dr Kerslake has a young daughter and hopes programs like this will not be needed once she is deciding on a career.

“I want her to go into any field and gender not be an issue,” she said.

Science & Technology Australia president-elect Professor Emma Johnston said studies showed 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.

“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.”

The Superstars of STEM program also includes a mentoring component which links participants with inspiring women in their sector who will provide insights into leadership in their field.

Participants will share their stories at high schools to inspire and connect with girls interested in STEM.

Tasmanian marine research scientist Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas from Australian Antarctic Division also made the the Superstars of STEM list.