Women in STEM: from the 1903 laboratory to the 2017 classroom

By | Events

By Rachael McCullough

In the lead-up to the In2science event Supporting girls in STEM: Strategies for the Classroom and Beyond, we reflect on the position of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, the role of outreach programs and the importance of role models and mentors.


Marie Curie

Marie Curie was the first person in history to win two Nobel Prizes. Image credit: The Wellcome Trust.

A Historical Challenge

Think of a famous woman in science. What’s the first name that comes into your head?

It’s likely you thought of Marie Curie, one of the most famous scientists of all time.

Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 for her groundbreaking research on radioactivity. In 1911, she received her second Nobel, this time in Chemistry. She was the first person to win twice, and remains the only person to have won the prize in two different sciences.

Marie’s scientific prowess was incredible. But what is equally incredible is the scientific community’s reaction to her achievements. Even after making history by winning both prizes, Marie was rejected from membership into the French Royal Academy of Sciences in 1911. Instead, the Academy elected Édouard Branly, a man who helped with the early development of the wireless telegraph.

Marie’s story highlights just some of the historical obstacles that prevented many women from pursuing careers in science and maths. Throughout history, there have been countless other women whose contributions to science were overlooked, neglected or credited to others.

Women in STEM today

We have come a long way since Marie Curie’s rejection from the Royal Academy. Women all over the world can now vote, graduate from university, hold academic positions, run businesses and are leaders in every field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). However, the shadow of inequity and discrimination still lingers over STEM in the 21st century.

In 2016, only 32% of STEM academic and research staff at Australian universities were women. This statistic mirrors that of STEM degree enrolments. Only 33% of STEM Bachelor degree enrolments in 2016 were women. 

And what’s more, women are more likely to underestimate their own abilities in STEM subjects than men. One study into a phenomenon known as stereotype threat showed that women performed worse than men on a maths test when told that gender is a predictor of their test score. However, when this stereotype threat was eliminated, the difference in performances between men and women was eliminated.

What we can do

IMG_126 cropped

Science outreach programs and role models encourage increased STEM engagement by girls.

Gender equity in STEM is a multi-faceted and historical problem that can’t be solved overnight. While there are still many obstacles in our path to an inclusive and diverse STEM community, we can see initiatives that are gently but steadily moving us in the right direction by sharing inspiring science through role models and activities. Science outreach programs like Robogals, that specifically aim to inspire young girls in STEM, are active in many cities in Australia and in many countries around the world. Films like Hidden Figures (2017) highlight the untold stories of marginalised mathematicians and engineers in America’s mission to the Moon. And Science and Technology Australia’s recently launched Superstars of STEM program places outstanding role models in front of aspiring scientists, mathematicians, inventors and innovators across the country.

In2science is committed to gender equity in STEM in Australia. Classrooms and online mentoring platforms can be positive environments for young girls to be exposed to new ideas, inspired and encouraged by mentors to pursue whatever sparks their interest. There are also many programs and initiatives that can complement school based STEM learning.

To highlight just some of the resources available to educators and mentors to support girls in STEM, the In2science team is excited to be hosting a panel discussion and networking event on Thursday 7th September.

Join the discussion

Supporting girls in STEM: Strategies for the Classroom and Beyond will take place on Thursday 7th of September 2017 and feature an expert panel discussion, followed by break-out discussion groups and a networking expo featuring a range of organisations and programs committed to STEM outreach and gender equity available to talk to at the conclusion of the event. If you are a university student, mentor, teacher or simply interested in promoting gender equality and diversity in STEM, we encourage you to join the discussion. This event is made possible by the generous support of the Selby Scientific Foundation. 


Register for the event here! http://bit.ly/In2scigirls

In2science Mentors get career ready

By | Events

With semester 1 coming to a close, mentors from our four partner universities were treated to a ‘thank-you’ morning tea and a special professional development session. The session was designed to improve the mentors’ awareness of employability skills they have developed while volunteering for the In2science program.

The mentor PD was developed with support from the Selby Scientific Foundation. The session highlighted to mentors the non-technical, ‘soft’ skills they put into practise during placement, including initiative, team work, improved communication and organisational skills. This is an important skill set for mentors to develop, as it is estimated by Deloitte Access Economics that soft skill intensive jobs in Australia will grow 2.5x faster than other jobs. Soft skill intensive jobs are expected to make up 63% of all jobs by 2030, which will include managers, engineers, ICT and science technicians.

The mentors brainstormed which of those skills they had developed in the classroom. They were shown examples for translating those experiences into responses to job selection criteria and interview questions, then practised responding to selection criteria for graduate roles at government and private organisations citing their In2science experience.

University members of the In2science advisory board were also in attendance to help congratulate mentors for their volunteering efforts and present them with certificates of recognition.



Mentors Having Fun With Maths

By | Events
In2science mentors l-r Abhi Gupta and Andy Quan from the University of Melbourne and Margaret Ngugi from Swinburne University of Technology at the Australian Council for Educational Research.

In2science mentors L-R Abhi Gupta and Andy Quan from the University of Melbourne and Margaret Ngugi from Swinburne University of Technology at the Australian Council for Educational Research.

Students learn better when they are having fun, so learning how to make maths fun is a serious business. Mentors from The University of Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology and RMIT University attended a professional development workshop provided by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) that provided practical methods for increasing the fun of maths in the classroom.

The day provided mentors with some great examples of language use and activities from everyday life to make maths more engaging and accessible for everyone in the classroom.

“This was a fresh perspective instead of the usual focus on content,” said Abhi Gupta, a mentor from The University of Melbourne who is working with students at Mercy College.

“Dave Tout engaged us on how maths can be better taught, especially for students who have a challenged background: by using mathematical concepts from day to day experiences, getting them to solve logic problems cooperatively, playing competitive games which rely on maths and digging deep into their understanding bottlenecks. Thanks to the In2science program for the opportunity!”

Swinburne mentor Margaret Ngugi, who mentors at Bayswater Secondary College said it changed her perspective on how maths can be taught. “It was really great and an eye opener into how the teaching system can be much more engaging and enjoyable.”

Activities included written and numerical logic problems to be completed cooperatively as well as ideas for games and resources. For example, did you know a smartie weighs exactly 1 gram with huge variation in the number and type found in a packet?

Not only did the workshop arm mentors with skills, ideas and tools for the classroom but it also provided further maths-specific conversation points and tips to be covered in the training provided to all mentors before placements.

Thanks to Dave Tout from ACER for providing the training, and the Selby Scientific Foundation for financially supporting the professional development of our mentors.

2016 In2science Awards Recognises Outstanding Achievements

By | Events, News

The Hon. Prof. John Brumby, In2science Chairman, introduces the 2016 In2science Awards

The 2016 In2science Awards recently recognised and celebrated the outstanding achievements and outcomes in STEM engagement through the In2science peer mentoring program.

In2science chairman, The Honourable Professor John Brumby, presented awards to mentors from all four partner universities, and three partner schools at the Melbourne Museum Theatre on Thursday 1st of December.

Professor Brumby opened the proceedings by praising the continuing efforts of the mentors, teachers, and supporters of In2science. He highlighted the need addressed by the program, “We all know that we’ve got a huge continuing challenge in this area. More results have come out on maths achievement in Australia, and the reality is that this is an area where Australia is really challenged. We look at the countries around us in the world, Singapore and South Korea and Malaysia and now China, they are making big investments into STEM.”

Despite this, Professor Brumby was upbeat about the achievements of In2science, “Tonight is about celebrating the success of the last year. Success in a re-invigorated form. 45 schools, 4 universities. Outstanding engagement from all of the participants. I think it’s true to say that the program is now stronger than ever.”

To recognise the efforts of mentors, there were five award categories. To read more detail about the award winners and finalists, click here.


In2science Awards winners, staff and university representatives with The Hon. Prof. John Brumby, In2science Chairman.


The Mentor Impact Award for the mentor that made the greatest positive impact in engaging students in science or maths went to Selda Ekri from Swinburne University of Technology.

The Role Model Award for the mentor recognised as an outstanding role model for their student mentees was accepted by Andres Alzate of The University of Melbourne.

The Dedication Award for the mentor that showed greatest dedication and commitment to the In2science program was awarded to Tarik Zepcan of La Trobe University.

The Above and Beyond Award for the mentor that showed greatest initiative in engaging students in science or maths went to Shelley Haslett of RMIT University.

The eMentoring Award for the most dedicated university mentor in the online eMentoring program was given to Mitchell Griggs of La Trobe University.

Three awards were given to teachers and schools for their support of In2science mentors.

Teacher Kylie Lambert from Maffra Secondary College traveled nearly three hours to attend the awards and accept the Mentor Support Award for the classroom teacher who provided the most supportive mentoring environment.

The Teacher Program Commitment Award for the classroom teacher that showed the greatest commitment to the In2science program went to Jessica Sartori from Brunswick Secondary College.

The School Program Commitment Award for the school that demonstrated the greatest engagement with the In2science program was awarded to Bundoora Secondary College, and was accepted on the night by link teacher Ross Goddard.

eMentoring Award winner Mitchell Griggs delivered a mentor reflection in which he highlighted the importance of the In2science program in helping to increase levels of achievement in science and maths in Australian schools, which he said have plateaued over the last 20 years according to the 2015 TIMSS report. Mitchell also reflected on the benefits he had gained from multiple placement rounds both in-class and online, “My education, both formal and otherwise was greatly enriched by the experience of being an In2science mentor, and my perspective broadened and informed about the importance of science communication and education.”

Following the official proceedings, the mentors and teachers mixed over drinks and canapes in the foyer with other guests including representatives of the four partner universities, as well as members of government and industry.


For full details about the 2016 In2science Award winners and finalists, click here.

To see a photo gallery of the 2016 In2science Awards, click here.

Upcoming STEM Outreach Events

By | Events

Here are some exciting STEM outreach events coming up at our partner universities, as well as other organisations.

Friday 30th of September – Swinburne eMentor in Three Minute Thesis Final

Swinburne University of Technology eMentor, Umamageswari Suparamaniam, will represent her university at the Three Minute Thesis Asia-Pacific final, taking place at the University of Queensland on the 30th of September. Uma, who eMentors students from Maffra Secondary College, and studies at the ARC Training Centre in Biodevices, gained a place in the final with her presentation on Electrical Stimulation for Culturing Muscle Stem Cells. In2science wishes Uma the best of luck!


solar challengeSaturday 15th and Sunday 16th of October – Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge State Finals

The Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge State Finals will be held at Scienceworks on Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th of October, in which school students from around Victoria will put their solar-powered models to the test. The event is open to the public and is sponsored by Swinburne University of Technology, Scienceworks and Engineers Australia.

Information about the event here. 


sqsc-public-exhibitionMonday 17th of October to Saturday 12th of November – Shell Questacon Science Circus Victoria tour

The Shell Questacon Science Circus is bringing its travelling hands-on exhibition, along with a team of fresh young science communicators to Victoria for a month-long tour from Monday 17 October 2016 to Saturday 12 November. The Science Circus, comprised of students studying the Master of Science Communication Outreach at The Australian National University, will be visiting schools and holding public exhibitions in and around the towns of Orbost, Bairnsdale, Traralgon, Warragul, Colac, Warrnambool, Portland, and crossing the SA border to visit Mt Gambier.

Tour dates here.


LTU wildlifeSunday 23th of October – La Trobe University wildlife sanctuary family fun day

Enjoy all that La Trobe University’s Outdoor Laboratory has to offer. There will be activities for the whole family, including nesting box workshops, children’s activities and guided tours. Wander through the Sanctuary and learn more about this unique oasis in Melbourne’s north.

When: Sunday 23 October

Where: La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary, La Trobe Avenue, across from car park 8 of La Trobe University, Bundoora

Full details here.

cellsFriday 18th of November – La Trobe University Outreach Microscopy teacher professional development

This full day program is specifically designed for teachers with limited or no formal training in Biology. Participants will explore the topic of cells from basics through to the more complex elements of cell biology. Sessions will include hands on activities that can be taken back into the classroom, a tour of the world-class microscopy facility at the La Trobe Institute of Molecular Sciences (LIMS) and insights into cellular biology research.
When: Friday 18 November
Where: La Trobe University, Bundoora

Places are limited. For details and registration click this link to view the flier.

November and December – The University of Melbourne Science Delivery

The University of Melbourne, Science Delivery program will visit regional high schools in a week-long roadshow during November, followed by a series of one-day sessions in metropolitan high schools in December. It is aimed at increasing the participation of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds in STEM. It features interactive science activities presented by current university students who themselves are from economically disadvantaged or rural backgrounds.

For more information and to make a booking, contact Lauren de Blank [email protected].

Monday 16th to Wednesday 18th of January 2017 – The University of Melbourne ConocoPhillips Science Experience

The program is designed to provide secondary students with an experience of university life with lectures, laboratory experiments and hands on interactive experiences all whilst being able to explore University of Melbourne’s world class facilities. The program is guided by top ranking academics across various schools including BioSciences, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Physics, Engineering and Life Sciences.

Information and registration can be found here.

RMIT science experience GROUP SHOT-018Tuesday 17th to Thursday 19th of January 2017 – RMIT ConocoPhillips Science Experience

RMIT is inviting the next generation of scientists to taste university life, with three fun filled days of science activities. Budding scientists entering year 10 in 2016 will go behind the scenes to undertake hands-on experiments in areas such as forensic chemistry, physics, laboratory medicine, engineering and geospatial science, as well as hear from talks from guest speakers.

Information and registration can be found here.


In2science & Quantum Victoria Event

By | Events

QuantumWhen: Monday 9th May, 2016
Where: 235 Kingsbury Drive, Macleod West, Vic 3085
Cost: FREE

Quantum Victoria is an innovative centre bringing science and mathematics education to life for students, teachers and the wider community. On Monday 9th May 2016 Quantum and In2Science are partnering to run workshops for students about STEM and STEM pathways. There will be In2Science mentors from Swinburne, La Trobe, RMIT and The University of Melbourne as well as Quantum staff running workshops and Q&A sessions for secondary students.  If you are a secondary teacher and would like to bring your students to this free statewide event for government schools, please contact Anna: [email protected]  or by phone: (03) 9223 1460

Find out about other events run by Quantum Victoria:

Events around Melbourne: November 2015

By | Events

The year might be winding up, but there’s still plenty of events and competitions happening throughout November to keep you busy!

LOGO_IYS_en_PrintDirty Secrets

When: Now until 24 November
Where: LAB-14 Gallery, Carlton Connect, 700 Swanston St, Carlton VIC 3053
Cost: Free

Have we forgotten to consider the soil as living and breathing, as the source of our food and many life saving pharmaceuticals, a contributor to our physical and psychological wellbeing, an important store of carbon, and water purifier?

Celebrating International Year of Soils, Dirty Secrets uncovers the hidden curiosities buried in soil. It encourages a deeper search for our connection to the land and its importance to our survival.

Read more.

Engineering & Information Technology showcase 2015

When: Wednesday 25 November, 5:30-9pm
Where: Union Hall, La Trobe University, Bundoora VIC 3083

Cost: Free

La Trobe University have a longstanding history in innovation. Get a sneak peek into the future by attending the 24th Annual Engineering & Information Technology Showcase on Wednesday November 25 – highlighting the very best student projects from a variety of Engineering and IT disciplines.

Read more.

IYL_Logo_ColorVertSwinburne ‘See the light’ competition

When: 25 October – 27 November
Where: Victoria
Cost: Free

The International Year of Light is a worldwide celebration of all things light, from the technologies that use it and that make our 21st century way of life possible, to the wonders of what light reveals of the universe around us.

Swinburne University of Technology wants to know what you think is amazing about light and we want you to show it in your school science lab. Victorian high school students (years 7-10) are invited to conduct and record an experiment that investigates something that they find interesting or inspiring about light. In the short video, the students should explain the experiment and what it shows about the amazing nature of light. The best entry in each category will win $250 to be shared by the student(s) and $500 for their school to use as they choose.

Read more.

ConocoPhillips Science Experience

When: Over three days in January 2016
Where: University of Melbourne, Parkville, and RMIT University, Melbourne CBD
Cost: $120

The ConocoPhillips Science Experience is returning to the University of Melbourne (13-15 January) and RMIT University (19-21 January) for the summer. This hands-on program gives year 9 and 10 students a chance to experience science topics under the guidance of passionate scientists.

Application close in December. Read more.

Impossible Climate: Safe Climate Restoration Under the Microscope

When: Wednesday 4 November, 6-8:30pm
Where: Ground floor, 700 Swanston Street, Carlton VIC 3053
Cost: Free

Advocacy for the restoration of a safe climate calls for solutions that the world does not currently possess.. The central question remains ‘is safe climate restoration possible and, if not, what level of action is now morally defensible and yet practically achievable?’ Join Breakthrough for this special forum to examine and critique the recently published discussion paper StrikingTargets, with author Philip Sutton.

Read more.

Events around Melbourne: October 2015

By | Events

In2science’s partner universities are holding a range of engaging, inspiring and thought-provoking events throughout October. With Melbourne Knowledge Week running from 19-25 October, there’s even more events to get stuck into!

Professor Andrew Greentree from RMIT University.

Professor Andrew Greentree from RMIT University.

Seeing into the body, one photon at a time

When: Wednesday 30 September, 6:30-8:00pm
Where: Building 80, Level 7, Room 1, RMIT University, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: Free

Light is vital to life. To best understand and use light, we must understand its classical and quantum aspects. Light surrounds us, heats us, feeds us, and for most of us it guides us. But because it is so universal, we often take it for granted.

In this talk, Professor Andrew Greentree will give an introduction to the quantum mechanical properties of light and introduce the particle of light – the photon. He will demonstrate some of the surprising results that arise from applying quantum mechanics. He will also introduce some of the techniques being used in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics to generate new ‘windows into the body’ to understand the physics of life.

Read more.


Fifty Years of Space Technology at the University of Melbourne

When: Monday 5 October, 5:30-7:30pm
Where: Brown Theatre, Electronic and Electrical Engineering Building, University of Melbourne, Parkville VIC 3052
Cost: Free

Australia’s first satellite was built by engineering students at the University of Melbourne. Fifty years later, a new group of students are looking to built the university’s second satellite. Join current and former students for an enlightening discussion about these projects and how the University of Melbourne makes their way to space.

Read more.


Quantum Mechanics Made Easy-ish

When: Monday 19 October, 8:00-9:15pm
Where: Croft Institute, Croft Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: $14

Baffled by quantum mechanics? Congratulations, you’re doing it right! This Laneway Learning class will show you the 20th century’s most reality-shaking theory in action, and tell you the things we do know and the things that not even Einstein thought made sense.

Presented by physicist and science communicator Chris Lassig, this special Laneway Learning class for Melbourne Knowledge week will give you an easy-ish understanding of quantum mechanics.

Read more.


 Science without research, education without teaching: alternative careers Q&A panel

When: Wednesday 21 October, 6:00-7:30pm
Where: Kaleide Theatre, Building 80, RMIT University, Melbourne VIC 3000
Cost: Free

Love science, but don’t want to go into research? Adore education, but not sure if teaching is for you? Join a panel of special guests with diverse and inspiring careers for a special Q&A forum and pick their brains about how they transformed their careers into something different from the norm.

This In2science professional development session is open for all to register and join in.

Read more.


What-if-lecture-series-logoWhat if the safety of your food could never be assured?

When: Tuesday 27 October, 7:00-8:30pm
Where: Hawthorn Community Precinct, 584 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
Cost: Free

How do we manage a safe food supply? Are some practices more risky than others? How do we make decisions about the food we consume; for example, should we drink raw milk?

Presented by Swinburne University of Technology and hosted by the City of Boroondara Library Service, this highly engaging talk showcases the exciting research and activities that Swinburne staff and students are working on right now.

Read more.


National Science Week 2015: events around Melbourne

By | Events

Happy National Science Week!

natsciwk_skyscraper1Australia’s annual celebration of science is on again from 15-23 August. Celebrating the International Year of Light, this year’s citizen science project Galaxy Explorer puts you in the astronomer’s seat. Classify and size galaxies to help scientists are the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research better understand how the universe was created and how it evolves.

Head to the National Science Week website to explore the hundreds of events across Australia. In the meantime, here are just a few to whet your science whistle.

Energised Fashion

Where: Design Hub, RMIT University, Melbourne VIC
When: 2.00-5.30pm Saturday 22 August
Cost: Free!

Can clothes be smart? RMIT University’s Energised Fashion Runway will feature applications of wearable technology in a number of domains including fashion, communications, entertainment, medical and healthcare, occupational health and safety.

Get involved with the Hands-On Lab throughout the fashion show or take part in a Wearable Technologies Workshop earlier in the day.

See Energised Fashion at the National Science Week website for more information.

Astronomy and Light Festival

Where: Scienceworks, Spotswood VIC
When: 5.00-9.00pm Saturday 22 August
Cost: Adults $7, children $5, families $20

The astronomy and Light Festival will be an evening of light (and dark) related fun at Scienceworks in Spotswood, featuring astronomers and optics researchers from across Victoria and Australia. A public event for all ages.

See Astronomy and Light Festival at the National Science Week website for more information.

Thumb_PARTICLE-FEVER-300x300Particle Fever

Where: Melbourne School of Design, Lecture theatre 1, University of Melbourne, Parkville VIC
When: 6.30pm, Wednesday 19 August
Cost: Free!

Particle Fever follows six scientists seeking to unravel the mysteries of the universe during the launch of the Large Hadron Collider. The ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale presents a free screening of the film, with a special introduction by Professor Ray Volkas, Head of the School of Physics at the University of Melbourne.

See Particle Fever at the National Science Week website for more information.

Silver Screen Science

Where: ACMI, Federation Square, Melbourne VIC
When: 7.00pm Thursday 20, Friday 21 and Saturday 22 August
Cost: Free!

Hosted by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Silver Screen Science is a contemporary science film festival featuring Hollywood blockbusters Contagion (Thursday 20 August), Gattaca (Friday 21 August) and Outbreak (Saturday 22 August).

Film screenings are followed by thought provoking dialogue as medical researchers, health professionals, artists and science fiction writers separate fact from fiction.

See Science in the Square at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute website for more information.