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Published: 18 Nov 2022

Dr Samantha Sawyer, Lecturer and Research Fellow in Food Science at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, is the latest member of a special group of women and non-binary people in Australian science and technology.

Dr Sawyer is among Australia’s newest Superstars of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) – 60 diverse brilliant scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians who want to step into the media spotlight as science experts – will be announced by the Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic MP on Friday, November 18.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for me to promote gender diverse role models in STEM to break down some of those stereotypes about who typically is in STEM and who succeeds in STEM,” Dr Sawyer said.

“Superstars of STEM is a training program to equip me with advanced communication skills so I can be part of a growing cohort of female and non-binary role models in STEM.”

Dr Sawyer is seeking solutions to keep Australian businesses globally competitive economically, socially, and environmentally. Whether that means helping industries be more resilient to climate change, finding ways to process food waste into great tasting and nutritious food, or improving production systems to be efficient and socially conscious.

After completing a PhD in Industrial Biotech and a Grad. Cert. of Innovation & Enterprise at the University of Sydney, Samantha’s career has been spent working in both industry and academia.

“I was fortunate in that the fields and institutes I chose to study were gender balanced at an undergrad level and to an extent the postgrad level,” Dr Sawyer said. “However, role models in higher academic levels were predominantly male.

“Acknowledging that change takes time, I am starting to see those changes, but more can be done. This is where programs like the Superstars of STEM and STA’s other programs are important.

“There’s a lot more focus around inclusion, diversity, and accessibility being incorporated into curriculum.

Lecturers, researchers, and tutors are increasingly diverse from the perspective of gender, ethnicity, orientation, and appearance and that is encouraging to see.

Dr Sawyer is working at the interface with the people who will inform, steer, and benefit the most from her research. She received a 2022 Science & Innovation Award (Wine Australia) for her project helping the wine industry adapt to climate change.

She is passionate about STEM outreach and engagement in regional areas and mentoring students and junior staff members to discover and achieve their career aspirations.

Science & Technology Australia Chief Executive Officer Misha Schubert said the program gave women and non-binary talent in STEM crucial skills and confidence to step into expert commentary roles in the media.

“We know it’s really hard to be what you can’t see,” she said. “That’s why this game-changing program is helping to smash stereotypes of what a scientist, technologist, engineer or mathematician looks like.”

“By becoming highly visible role models in the media, these Superstars of STEM are showing our diverse next generations of young people - especially our girls and non-binary kids - that STEM is for them.”

Superstars of STEM is an Australian initiative to smash gender assumptions about who can work in science, technology, engineering, and maths.

Science & Technology Australia (STA) is Australia’s peak body in science and technology.

TIA is a joint venture of the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government.