Supercomputing enthusiast among the new constellation of superstars of STEM

Pawsey researchers Bianca Capra, from UNSW, Caroline Moffat, from Curtin University, ICRAR’s Natasha Hurley-Walker and CSIRO’s Sara Pearce, are among 60 female scientists and technologist named ‘Superstars of STEM’ by Science and Technology Australia, announced by Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP.

Launched in 2017, the ‘Superstars of STEM’ program is aimed at changing the public’s view of women in science and creating a new generation of role models for our future scientists.

The program will provide advanced communications skills training to 150 women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, to then expose them to genuine opportunities to inspire others, in the media, stages, schools and giving them access to decision makers.

Professor Emma Johnston AO, President of Science & Technology Australia and Dean of Science at UNSW, said; “women will no longer hide their scientific superpowers, and will be able to share them with as many Australians as possible following the launch.”

“Each Superstar will connect with hundreds of school children, featured in local, national and international media, and serve as a representative for their work, their discipline and their sector.”

The women chosen to take part do exciting and varied work in science and technology, they include a researcher working to develop a “key-hole surgery” inspired approach to mining, a conservationist with a love of reptiles and a mission to train them not to eat cane toads, someone exploring the personality of volcanoes and how to predict their behaviour, and many others.<

“We are extremely proud to have seen hundreds of capable, skilled, confident women apply for the program, and really look forward to sharing the stories of these impressive 60 Superstars with the world,” said Prof Johnston.

This program is a good example of what can be done to address the gender imbalance in the STEM role models.


Meet our Superstars of STEM


Dr Capra’s work as an aerospace engineer involves training and inspiring future generations of innovative engineers. She specialises in high speed atmospheric and interplanetary flight and generating practical solutions to reduce the energy use of our built environment.

Sarah Pearce is the Deputy Director of CSIRO’s astronomy and space science division, and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex was the sole station monitoring Curiosity’s descent. CSIRO’s astronomy and space science division ran the station on behalf of NASA. Sarah has wanted to work in the space field since she was a teenager. As well as managing the Canberra station, the division run the Australian radio telescopes for the international science community. That includes the iconic ‘Dish’ at Parkes, and the new Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder in WA.

Dr Caroline Moffat is a molecular plant pathologist, Senior Research Fellow and a key member of the leadership team 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 (GRDC).

As the leader of the Cereal Diseases research theme at the CCDM, Caroline’s work combines molecular biology, genetics and bioinformatics to help better understand crop disease, with the ultimate aim of reducing its economic impact in the Australian grains industry

Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker has been working with a new radio telescope in outback Western Australia to create a map of the entire sky — for the first time, in radio colour.  Having amassed half a petabyte of data, and spent millions of supercomputing hours transforming that data into images, she has knitted together a mosaic that shows a true cosmic immensity.