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Curtin researchers named national role models for women in STEM

Media release

Curtin University astronomy researcher Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker and molecular plant pathologist Dr Caroline Moffat are among only 60 female scientists from Australia chosen for the 2019-20 Superstars of STEM program, which aims to boost the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The pair will connect with hundreds of school children, feature in local, national and international media and serve as representatives for their work, their discipline and their sector in an effort to break down gender assumptions about scientists.

Dr Hurley-Walker is an Early Career Research Fellow from the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy, part of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.

Dr Moffat is a Senior Research Fellow and Theme Research Leader at the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM), a national research centre co-supported by Curtin University and the Grains Research and Development Corporation, whose work aims to reduce the economic impact of crop disease on the Australian grains industry.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry congratulated Dr Hurley-Walker and Dr Moffat on being selected from a large and highly competitive field of applicants for the Superstars of STEM program.

“The achievements of these two talented researchers continues to raise the profile of women in STEM, in turn inspiring the next generation of female scientists to follow in their footsteps,” Professor Terry said.

“Dr Hurley-Walker and Dr Moffat’s continued success is the result of their unwavering commitment to their respective fields and makes them ideal advocates for STEM, an area where women are often disproportionately under-represented.”

Dr Hurley-Walker’s selection caps a strong year that also saw her named an ABC RN Top 5 Science winner as one of Australia’s best young science communicators.

She also led the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) team which conducted the GLEAM (Galactic and Extragalactic All-sky MWA) survey, using the powerful radio telescope to observe and capture images of the lowest radio frequencies, creating striking multi-coloured maps of the Universe. This work and her outreach led to her being named WA Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year 2017.

Dr Hurley-Walker said she was thrilled to be recognised for her contributions to the science community and again given the opportunity to promote the role of women in STEM.

“As a passionate scientist and science communicator, I am excited to be a role model for other aspiring women in STEM,” Dr Hurley-Walker said.

“Participation in this program will empower me to share my passion for and knowledge of science and encourage others to become involved as I did.”

Dr Moffat was nominated as a finalist for the 2014 Eureka Prize for Sustainable Agriculture as part of a team contributing multi-million dollar savings to Australian agriculture by developing a new test to identify disease resistant wheat. She has also performed a world first gene deletion in a major fungal pathogen.

Dr Moffat was also part of the inaugural research team involved in establishing the CCDM in 2014, and represented Australia as a Young Leader at the Science and Technology in Society forum in Japan.

Dr Moffat said she was immensely honoured to be selected as a Superstar of STEM as a woman working in agricultural science.

“I see this as a fantastic opportunity to smash stereotypes and help showcase the incredible work of Aussie women in agriculture research,” Dr Moffat said.

“I hope that being a part of this program I can do my part to help make scientists more relatable to the wider community, but particularly to aspiring young Australian women.

“I work with a talented group of researchers at the CCDM, over half of whom are women, and I look forward to sharing what we do with others to help inspire women of all ages to pursue science as a career, as well as encourage them to consider opportunities within agricultural research.”

The Superstars of STEM program is run by Science and Technology Australia, which is Australia’s peak body in science and technology and represents about 70,000 Australian scientists and technologists working across all scientific disciplines.

Last week, Curtin’s commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine was recognised with bronze accreditation at the SAGE Athena SWAN Awards.