Astronomer Lisa Harvey-Smith named first Women in STEM ambassador

Astronomer Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith named Australia’s first Women in STEM ambassador

Lisa Harvey-Smith
She’s already achieved numerous accolades, including publishing more than 40 scientific papers, but astronomer Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith now has a new title: Australia’s first Women in STEM Ambassador.

The appointment comes as women continue to make up just one fifth of people working in STEM.

She will help raise awareness about government programs aiming to get women into science, tech, engineering and mathematics fields, according to Karen Andrews, the Minister for Industry Science and Technology, who announced the appointment over the weekend.

Harvey-Smith will also advocate for girls and women in STEM education, to help drive awareness on the need for cultural and social change on gender equity.

“If we can increase participation in STEM by girls and women, we will strengthen Australia’s research, scientific and business capability,” said Andrews.

“The Women in STEM Ambassador role will complement existing work and activities that are driving greater gender equity in science, both Government and sector-led.”

The ambassador roles is part of a $4.5 million government package, unveiled in the 2018-19 budget to help improve gender equity in STEM.

Harvey-Smith has been with the CSIRO for the past nine years, which she is leaving to take up this new role.

She grew up in England, where she attended ‘space school’ at London’s Brunel University, a summer camp program. From the age of 11, she started teaching herself over going to high school, a decisions her parents offered her. She told the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year that there were a number of reasons why she didn’t want to go to school, including the fact she would be forced to wear a skirt and that boys and girls were separated into things she didn’t feel comfortable with.

Harvey-Smith is currently running an astronomy show that’s touring nationally and is based on her book When Galaxies Collide. She is an ultra-marathon runner and has participated in LGBTI advocacy. She has a Masters degree in Physics with Honours in Astronomy & Astrophysics from the University of Newcastle and a Ph.D. in Radio Astronomy from Jodrell Bank Observatory at the University of Manchester.

She’s previously spent two years at The Joint Institute for Very Long Baseline Interferometry in Europe (JIVE) in the Netherlands, and has spent much of her career working to develop and maintain professional astronomical observatories. She’s a presenter of the ABC’s Stargazing Live and has been a guest on numerous other television shows.

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