ASC NSW Kicks off #fromtheLAB 2020 series during Covid-19

As the world faces the coronavirus pandemic crisis, organisations are exploring new ways to promote content in accessible and engaging formats, as people look to connect online relatively more. At Australian Science Communicators NSW, we have kicked off our #fromtheLAB series that engages and connects everyone with scientists, researchers, innovators through short videos where they talk about their current work and disoveries.

Are you an early career researcher / scientist in Australia?

While we produce and share videos each month in collaboration with scientists across Australia, we are also looking for expressions of interests to participate in this series. We can also use content that you already have created that you would like to share.

Here are the #fromtheLAB snippets from April that we have shared so far:

Vanessa Pirotta: Whales and Drones

Muthu Vellayappan: Covid Safety Key

If you are keen, we shall guide you with ideas and assist in editing the short video with you.

Please write to us on to express interest.


Perspectives on Diversity in STEMM – Checkout the video here!

Australian Science Communicators, NSW Branch is so proud to support the documentary style video on Perspectives on Diversity in STEMM.

Quoted from Australia’s Science Channel: With a quarter of its population born overseas, Australia is culturally and linguistically diverse. Inclusion and diversity are core of the identity and spirit of Australian society and its contemporary culture.

However, this social diversity is not reflected in the composition of the country’s STEMM workforce, which is currently still predominately the male gender. For a seemingly egalitarian nation, Australia’s STEMM workforce statistics are starkly contrasting.

The advantage of diversity is that we ensure we get all the possible brains, backgrounds and experiences working on the problems important to the country – if we want to succeed, we need to make sure everyone can take part, and feels part.

Produced by Astha Singh. Supported by Australian Science Communicators | NSW branch; Inspiring AustraliaFranklin Women, Australia’s Science Channel and Science & Technology Australia.


Astha Singh: Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Medicine STEMM skills play a critically important role in facing the greatest challenges and solving some of the biggest problems. But our current workforce doesn’t represent the true Australian Diversity which means we are not fully supporting our best and brightest and that’s why we need to talk about ‘Diversity in STEMM’.

Dilan Seckiner: Diversity in STEMM is very important.

Vanessa Pirotta: Diversity in STEMM is incredibly important and I’m so proud to be one of those diverse women in science, here in Australia. My father is Maltese and Mum is Italian and I represent the small minority of scientists trying to show the world that Diversity is Important.

Astha Singh: But why Diversity is so important?

Alan Duffy: Diversity matters is science, if we want to get the best ideas we have to have the best minds.

Rachael Murray: And if we don’t have that diversity, we’ll just keep on thinking along the same lines over and over again and perhaps not do the best we could do.

Alan Duffy: But it’s more than that, if you want to work in an environment that’s inspiring, that’s welcoming you going to have better ideas shared and you just going to have a better time. Diversity in science matters because we get the best ideas, but because we can also have the best experience. And that is something we all benefit from.

Hasti Hayati: I believe that coming from any different culture, you are biased to think about a problem in a specific way.

Mikaela Jade: It’s so important to have diversity in STEMM particularly I feel by including the First Nation’s voice. We have over eighty thousand years of science experiments and so much knowledge about the connection between people and country.

Karl Kruszelnicki: The advantage of diversity in STEMM is simply that instead of getting 5 or 10 or 20 percent of all the brains available to work on the problem, you get all the 100 percent, what’s not to like?

Yee Lian Chew: Because teams that are made of people who come from different backgrounds, diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, training, experiences, language, disabilities, all of these people bring something new and creative to solve a scientific question in a really innovative way.

Preeti Bajaj: Foundational skills of STEMM are critical to the 21st century and I’m delighted to think about diversity as an ecosystem of talent, capital, and actually knowledge and research capability coming from all over the world. In fact, propelling that is the possibility that Australia has today.

Astha Singh: Here are some perspectives on why gender diversity is important.

Lila Landowski: I’m often hearing narratives that men need to be the equaliser that they need to be supporting women in the workplace and promoting gender equality and diversity. But in saying that, we are missing fifty percent of the population. Women need to support other women, we all have a role in challenging bias and championing for one another just as much as the next person does.

Mehreen Faruqi: I studied civil engineering precisely to make the point that women can and should be free to choose any line of work and study. It was a male dominated profession in Pakistan and there were also very few women in engineering in Australia. Our common bond as women in STEMM means we share a natural tenacity, intellectual capacity and creativity that’s solely needed to solve the big challenges like climate crisis and inequality. I love my work as a civil and environmental engineer on hydel power projects, water use and recycling, waste reduction and much more – but it wasn’t all easy!

Astha Singh: So, are women in STEMM initiatives enough?

Sanam Mustafa: Although much effort is made to rectify the gender imbalance, other minority groups are often forgotten or placed in a too difficult basket. This is especially true when intersectionality is considered.

Megan Cherry: As we promote women in STEMM here in Australia, it is important that we also consider the role of intersectionality within these efforts.

Astha Singh: Diversity means understanding that each individual is different and unique and recognising those differences.

Johanna Howes: Here at Science Space we encourage presenters from different cultural backgrounds, different languages, and different nationalities. We even have somebody on staff who speaks Australian Sign language.

Dilan Seckiner: I’m quite proud to be a part of our Centre for Forensic Science at UTS, where we are incredibly diverse.

Alice Motion: But currently the people who work in STEMM don’t truly represent the societies and communities in which we live. And that’s a real problem. Not least because it means that we are missing out on lots of exceptional talent.

Leanne Connelly: The reason I think that we lack diversity in our industries is because women and people from diverse backgrounds are constantly being subtly told that they are inexperienced, that they haven’t got enough, that they need to do more and it is just not true.

Sharon Quah: To think on an intersectional approach to understand to what is happening here in academia, to understand in-equalities in academia, it is first to acknowledge that we all live in multiple worlds, that we all have multiple situations, complex situations that we navigate every day.

Astha Singh: Here are some challenges that STEMM professionals face and have shared with us.

Paola Magni: Sometimes at the crime scene, I was the youngest person, in an environment of just men, and yes I was a young girl at the crime scene. So it was pretty difficult for the older men to believe in my job.

Jyotsana Batra: I think I would have to have worked hard, almost double than everybody else would have worked who is from the place. We don’t have that big network, you have to build it kind of from scratch because you have entered a new country.

Noushin Nasiri: Cultural difference was a challenge for the first couple years. I was studying in English, working in English which was not my first language. So language barrier was a big challenge for at least 2-3 years.

Hossein Tavassoli: New environment, new people, new language, new culture, new accent, everything was new and I was kind of worried of that.

Melody Ding: As a female minority researcher I find myself spending a lot of time trying to convince myself, trying to validate myself to others.

Muthu Vellayappan: Coming to a new country and working a scientist has been challenging for me. Barriers I have faced are culture, language and the use of local lingo.

Yee Lian Chew: As a woman of East-Asian descent, and I look pretty young for my age and for my level of training, I’m so often asked, whose PhD student are you? Or whose honours student are you? Or whose post-doc are you? And now that I have my own lab, I just kind of laugh it off and I’m like – oh well, I’m in my own lab now, I have my own group.

David Chisanga: Ultimately at the end of the day what should be of importance to everyone is the science that we are all out to do.

Mehreen Faruqi: Deliberate action must be taken, to dismantle structural and cultural barriers to gender inequality. We need flexible work practises without bias, equal pay, affirmative action for diversity and Universities and workplaces that are free from overt and covert sexism.

Charishma Kaliyanda: For those of us who are from a diverse background, who are part of the minority in STEMM fields: We have a huge role to play in making sure that we not only improve the diversity in STEMM fields but we also maintain the levels of diversity going into the future. And, we ensure that we get the best possible outcomes for our respective fields as best as possible.

Leanne Connelly: When you bring someone from a minority, someone who has faced true adversity, in their background into your team, you bring a level of support, strength and commitment that you just cannot get in any other way.

Riddhi Gupta: We need to imagine what life is like to people who are not us and I think that this helps us become better human beings, it increased out empathy, but it also helps us to have the kind of honest dialogue, we need to really have the difficult technical conversations when we are producing or collaborating on research projects.

Leanne Connelly: I want to see more women in STEMM, more women in entrepreneurship, more women of colour in STEMM and more women in leadership roles in these areas.

Miriam Sotes: I want to see women from all countries coming forward to work in the energy sector.

Onisha Patel: It actually takes special strength and character to give that trust, to empower someone, who does not fit in your conformity. And this is what is missing at leadership levels because we do not see enough of this diversity.

Riddhi Gupta: I think it would be great if we didn’t make assumptions about a scientist’s competence or position of influence without actually meeting them, and getting to know them well. I also think we should use our ability to ask questions, and understand the technical detail about research.

Sanam Mustafa: I strongly believe however that negative cultures can be counteracted by positive actions. It is time to bring change and we can do this together by ensuring there are visible role models representing minorities in all aspects of STEMM.

Yee Lian Chew: It shows an implicit bias that people don’t think that research leaders or people who have senior positions in STEMM could possibly look like me. In future I would hope that increased diversity at STEMM leadership levels would mean that in the future, people who look like me would not get that question anymore. At least not on the first class!

Muneera Bano: In order to make sure that we are advancing science in the direction that helps us to build a society for the future that is not just fair but also represents every one regardless of their race, gender and identity.

Astha Singh: And what does the future look like?

Vanessa Pirotta: I hope that I encourage you and many others to be diverse and to embrace diversity here in Australia and throughout the world.

Megan Cherry: As we prepare the next generation in STEMM, it is imperative that we be more intentional in our recruitment processes that we think outside the box and that we be more open minded.

Riddhi Gupta: In twenty years’ time, I think that diversity in the science community is inevitable. The world is getting smaller and we are definitely already breaking the boundaries with who we collaborate and I think that this kind of trend is inevitable so I’m really looking forward to the future.

Sanaz Mahdavi: Because STEMM is all about making the world a better place.

Preeti Bajaj: We are a country with people from diverse nations and we are at the critical juncture where we can bring people, capital and research capability from all over the world in this one melting pot called Australia, and create a tech sector, that can create the best jobs available in the 21st century.

Astha Singh: So let’s be more open and inclusive, and let’s create a STEMM community that is the strongest.

— Transcript End —

Upcoming Perspectives on Diversity in STEMM

After the 2018 conference session and published article on Missing Links for STEMM Diversity, Australian Science Communicators NSW branch has created a documentary style video about perspectives on Diversity in Science Technology Engineering Maths and Medicine (STEMM) featuring STEMM professionals from all around Australia.

ASC, NSW along with the support of Australia’s Science Channel – RiAus, Franklin WomenInspiring Australia and Science & Technology Australia are going to launch this video on the Thursday 14th November via multiple platforms.

You are all invited to share this video and continue to have the conversation about diversity in STEMM.

Here is a teaser of the video.



ASC New South Wales AGM Notice

The ASC NSW branch Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held at 4-5 pm on Friday 6 Dec 2019 this year at Quarrymans Hotel, 214-216 Harris St, Pyrmont NSW 2009.

Please email ASC NSW branch if you would like to:

  • Wrap up of year 2019 and activities
  • Nominate for a committee position
  • Contribute ideas for activities and events next year
  • General catch up and discussion

Committee member positions are President, Treasurer, Secretary, National Committee representative, Social Media Rep and general committee member.

Current committee members are:

  • Astha Singh (President & NSW National Rep)
  • Akanksha Tiwary (Treasurer)
  • Danielle Stocks (Secretary)
  • Cat Dorey (General Committee)
  • Stephen Pincock (General Committee

Vice President and Social Media member roles are currently vacant.

You must be a paid member in order to vote, but everyone is welcome to join us and and contribute ideas. If you are a paid member and can’t attend, please email us or give a friend your proxy vote so that we can meet the quorum for this year.

Download your proxy vote form: 

Please fill the form in and either send them with a member to vote on your behalf or email to a member of the committee ( who will vote on your behalf.

The Missing Link for STEMM Diversity

Building bridges and dissolving boundaries in STEMM

– Dr Astha Singh and Akanksha Tiwary

With a quarter of its population born overseas, Australia is culturally and linguistically diverse. Inclusion and diversity are core of the identity and spirit of Australian society and its contemporary culture. However, this social diversity is not reflected in the composition of the country’s STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) workforce, which is currently still predominately the male gender. For a seemingly egalitarian nation, Australia’s STEM workforce statistics are starkly contrasting.

Researchers and innovators from different backgrounds including (but not limited to) race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, age, and abilities have contributed to numerous scientific and technological breakthroughs. Their distinctive backgrounds shape how they tend to perceive and resolve issues at the institutional, local, national, or international level. Thus, working in an environment laced with gender, cognitive, ethnic, and experiential diversity involves engaging with different perspectives that help develop a holistic understanding crucial for driving innovation. To create a sustainable shape the STEM-led future of Australia, its diverse workforce needs to be leveraged.

Storytelling as a tool

Astha Singh migrated to Australia for her PhD research and found that the male to female ratio was quite skewed within the faculty. She also found that it was rather challenging for international students coming from a different cultural and non-English speaking backgrounds to conduct high-quality research. This inspired Astha to continuously support and empower peers and colleagues especially from diverse backgrounds and to advocate for diversity in STEMM.

During the tenth national conference of the Australian Science Communicators (ASC 2018), an attempt was made to understand the existing impediments to full inclusion in STEMM fields. Rather than delving on graphs and statistics, the session took a unique turn, wherein the speakers narrated their unique and original stories. While graphs and statistics can be alarming, at times, it is through real-life stories that actions of lasting change are initiated.

The panellists, or rather the storytellers for this session were: Devanshi Seth, Principal Scientist, RPA Hospital and Clinical Associate Professor, Centenary Institute, University of Sydney; Dr Noushin Nasiri, Lecturer at School of Engineering, Macquarie University; Alfonso Ballestas-Barrientos, PhD Candidate, Laboratory of Advanced Catalysis for Sustainability, School of Chemistry, The University of Sydney and Dr Manoj Gupta, Research Fellow, Climate Change Cluster, University of Technology, Sydney.

Finding the missing link

The speakers recounted their moments of inspiration, adversity, resilience, and of lasting transformation that helped them establish their personal and professional lives thousands of kilometres away from home. From a particle in Brownian motion, Devanshi Seth, in her own words, bloomed into a fruit-laden tree, making the most of her academic and industrial randomness through “Franklin Women”. Now, comfortable in standing out, she urged the audience to make the most of their varied experiences by helping ease the socio-cultural transition of their colleagues. Devanshi is an active promoter of women in science and was the founding Chair of Gender Equity at Centenary and is on the Peer Advisory Committee for Franklin Women.

Noushin’s  journey from a small city near the Caspian Sea in Iran taught her the importance of cultivating inclusion as a basic human right in STEMM circles. She continues to play her part in mingling with the Australian culture, urges colleagues to do the same and no let the self-perception dictate the direction of this journey. Noushin and Devanshi’s stories revealed that brewing a strong work culture of humbleness and empathy will help engrave diversity – at all levels – in STEMM.

Alfonso Ballestas-Barrientos, travelled all the way from the Americas to Down-Under for his love for chemistry. Alfonso just as all other Venezuelans struggled to express his academic views that could be clearly understood by his audience. Living across a few oceans from his family, Alfonso had faced adversities on a personal level that had impacted his ability to excel at his work and learned a few life lessons that focussed on inclusion. In Alfonso’s words, “Understanding of one’s own culture and the culture of others with openness and flexibility will help make bridges between individuals, groups and nations”.

Additional speaker and Climate Change Cluster researcher from UTS Manoj Gupta’ s story described that culture-induced gender biases still dominate career choices across the globe. Women and underrepresented groups are associated with only certain roles. Socio-economic constraints and privileges significantly influence career choices. Pay disparity still exists amongst STEMM fields, creating the issue of financial stability and thus luring youngsters from developing nations to move from pure sciences towards engineering and technology roles.

Cultivating a culture of acceptance and respect

For both the native and non-native audience, the impact of language barriers and cultural differences on an individual’s social and professional identification became apparent. Through each of the stories, the importance of support groups and mentoring networks  in creating a welcoming environment was highlighted. This conversation prompted Jackie Randles (Manager, Inspiring Australia, the national STEMM engagement strategy) to comment “We are not just scientists; we are people. While we often talk about our work, it’s time we talk more often about our stories.”

Viewing these stories with an external greater perspective we need to consider how accepting we are of these diverse pools of talent in our STEMM societies and what steps are we taking to really implement diversity and inclusion. What steps are we taking to build a truly diverse professional world in the STEMM domain is a question to ponder deeply upon. Diversity and inclusion should not just be a topic to be ticked off in the professional environment at the Human Resources level but should be a conversation that keeps going on in a more personable and human level. Diversity and inclusiveness encompass acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and celebrating what makes us different. In the digital era of dissolving boundaries, let’s openly listen to each other, and as Noushin puts it, “be prepared to be amazed!”