Dr Steph Gardner from UNSW Science is one of 60 brilliant women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) chosen for Science & Technology Australia’s Superstars of STEM program (2021-2022). Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews will announce those selected for the program today.

Superstars of STEM is a program designed to upskill women in STEM with the skills and confidence to step into expert commentary roles in the media, and to inspire more young women and girls to choose to study and work in these disciplines.  It aims to address the cultural and societal biases that continue to limit the engagement of women with STEM, by addressing the lack of gender parity in high-profile STEM role models.

Dr Gardner said she was honoured and excited to be selected for the program.

“Science improves our knowledge and understanding of the world we live in, and human progress throughout history has largely come from advances in science,” she said.  “However, as scientists, we need to effectively communicate the work we do to make a real difference to the world around us.

“I look forward to helping close the gender gap in STEM throughout my career and hope to use this opportunity to elevate women’s representation across the media and in our workplace, to create a more level playing field.”

Dr Gardner is a microbial ecologist who studies the role of bacteria in marine organisms like corals and algae. Her research explores how these microbes influence health and function in both tropical and temperate reef ecosystems. As an ocean advocate, her goal is to raise awareness of the problems facing our reef ecosystems to safeguard them into the future.

UNSW Dean of Science Professor Emma Johnston congratulated Dr Gardner on being named one of the country’s newest Superstars of STEM.

“Dr Gardner has already demonstrated her leadership prowess in supporting young scientists in her role as Secretary of the Australian Coral Reef Society, undertaking teaching, supervision and outreach activities.

“I look forward to seeing her share stories about her work, as she connects with school children and features in the media as a Superstar of STEM.”

Prof. Johnston was President Elect of Science & Technology Australia when Superstars of STEM was first run in 2017. She said there are hundreds of inspiring women who do brilliant, ground-breaking work as scientists and technologists across Australia, and it’s crucial for our girls to have powerful role models to show them that they too can be a scientist, technologist, engineer or mathematician.

“Superstars of STEM sets out to smash stereotypes and develop powerful role models to show girls that STEM is for them,” Prof. Johnston said.

Superstars of STEM is supported by the Australian government’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. A full list of 2021-2022 participants is available on the Science & Technology Australia website.