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Superstar scientists of STEM

Science & Technology Australia’s Superstars of STEM program is helping to raise the profile of the nation’s female scientists to inspire the next generation.

Photo of Dr Tien Huynh

Dr Tien Huynh. Image supplied by Tien.

Tien Huynh, is a senior lecturer at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) specialising in plant biotechnology and environmental sustainability. Dr Huynh, a participant in the first cohort of superstars, says she joined the program to gain knowledge and experience to use social media and online technology to communicate her passion for nature and science to the world, particularly ethnic minorities who make Australia the multiculturally diverse community it is.

‘The benefits were more than I ever expected, from features on SBS world news that had international reach, Nature magazine that led to collaborations with world leading researchers, and segments on Gardening Australia leading to invitations as an honoured guest and speaker with top ranking Indian universities. I also had my documentary from the 8-Percent Productions shown on Virgin airlines for 3 months, and was praised in the most widely circulated newspapers in Vietnam and India such that hotels treated me like a celebrity,’ says Dr Huynh.

Ronika Power, a Macquarie University Associate Professor of Bioarchaeology – the study of living things from the ancient world – and fellow participant in the program, says that the program provides the opportunity to learn about how to communicate across platforms and with different audiences to inspire and connect with people across Australia.

‘I built a strong social media presence; received accelerated promotion at work; gave a TED talk and public lectures; participated in meetings with the Prime Minister and other national and international politicians, and received invitations to serve on national and international advisory boards at high-profile institutions – all due to my participation in the Superstars program,’ says Associate Professor Power.

Dr Huynh, who came to Australia as a 6 year old girl as a refugee seeking asylum from the Vietnam War, ‘plans to build on the momentum internationally and pass forward my knowledge to girls and young children in underprivileged communities in rural Australia and developing nations in Asia. There is still much inequality in the world and I am determined to change that.’

‘Coming from a traditional patriarchal society, girls were trained from birth that we were inferior, to be seen but not heard. Having visible and positive role models in any field changes that perspective so that we are valued as significant contributors to the family, society and the world,’ says Dr Huynh, ‘STEM constitutes such a substantial input in our lives and it should be promoted so that girls can see the opportunities available and how rewarding a career it is.’

Associate Professor Power says, ‘The Superstars of STEM program seamlessly aligns with my life’s purpose: to make the world a better place by inspiring people of all ages and backgrounds – especially women and girls – to participate in education, mentorship and knowledge exchange in academic, professional and personal contexts.’

Superstars of STEM doesn’t just benefit the women who participate in the program, ‘it also benefits the thousands of young women and girls with whom we interact and influence across Australia,’ says Associate Professor Power, ‘in the absence of positive female role models in STEM, we compromise the possibility of best outcomes not only for women and girls, but for everyone in all aspects of society.’