The authors Debatri Chattopadhyay (Swinburne University) and Isobel Romero-Shaw (Monash University)—who are both completing their PhDs in astrophysics with OzGrav—are determined to educate children and young people about the pivotal scientific discoveries and contributions made by women scientists. They also want to encourage more girls, women, and minorities to take up careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM), which is a male-dominated field.
Debatri, who is originally from India, came to Australia pursuing her PhD at Swinburne University in 2017. She was acutely aware of the lack of women in STEMM fields, as both of her parents worked in biological sciences. “My father is a scientist, so I was aware that this was a field I could go into, and he would talk about amazing biologists like Barbara McClintock, but there was almost no representation of female scientists on TV or in newspapers,” she recalls.
“This colouring book will help children learn about the colourful lives and brilliant minds of these amazing women scientists. As a colouring book, it encourages creative minds to think about scientific problems - which is very much needed for problem solving”, says Isobel, who designed the book and illustrated each of the featured scientists. “These women, who made absolutely pioneering discoveries, used their creativity to advance the world as we know it.”
“I did intense research for the biographies of the women featured in the book and at every nook and crevice was amazed at the perseverance they showed. It is for them and countless others, unfortunately undocumented, that we can do what we do today,” says Debatri. “With Christmas approaching, this book is a perfect gift for young children who have a hunger for science. It’s both fun and educational!” she added.
Last year, both Isobel and Debatri were also selected to participate in Homeward Bound, a global program designed to provide cutting-edge leadership training to 1000 women in STEMM over 10 years. To raise awareness of climate change, this journey will also take Isobel and Debatri all the way to Earth’s frozen desert, Antarctica.
The initiative aims to heighten the influence and impact of women with a science background in order to influence policy and decision making as it shapes our planet. In 2017-18, OzGrav Chief Investigator Distinguished Prof Susan Scott was also selected to participate in this program and embark on the journey to Antarctica.
“The saying that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ is addressed in this new colouring book,” says Distinguished Prof Scott. “The important women scientists depicted in the book come to life as role models as they are coloured in. Women are underrepresented in physics education and work in Australia. Educating children about women scientists throughout history is an important step in encouraging more girls and women to take up STEMM careers and boost diversity.”
In their “day jobs”, Isobel tries to figure out how the collapsed remains of supergiant stars—black holes and neutron stars—meet up and crash together. She does this by studying the vibrations that these collisions send rippling through space-time—these are called gravitational waves. She also recently published an illustrated book, available on Amazon, called Planetymology: Why Uranus is not called George and other facts about space and words. Planetymology explains the ties between ancient history, astronomy, and language, and introduces the reader to the harsh realities of conditions on other planets.
Debatri is involved in doing simulations in supercomputers of dead stars in binaries or in massive collections of other stellar systems - called globular clusters. Her detailed theoretical calculations help us to understand the astrophysics behind the observations of gravitational waves and radio pulsars, as well as predict what surprising observations might be made in the future. Debatri is also a trained Indian classical dancer and was a voluntary crew member of the Melbourne-based tall ship `Enterprize’. She has recently submitted her thesis and joined as a postdoctoral fellow at the Gravity Exploration Institute, Cardiff University.
GIVEAWAY: To celebrate the launch of Women in Physics, OzGrav is giving away free copies of the colouring book to three lucky winners. Simply share the book via Twitter (re-tweet) and tag @ARC_OzGrav to be in the draw. Winners will be announced Monday 20 December!