National Science Week event.

From the COVID vaccine to nuclear fission to pulsars to computer programming, women are at the source of many scientific discoveries, inventions and innovations that shape our lives. But in the stories we’ve come to accept about these breakthroughs, women are too often left out.

In this talk we’ll learn about the women behind some incredible scientific discoveries, inventions and innovations. This includes bacterial geneticist Esther Lederberg, who made amazing discoveries in genetics that won her first husband a Nobel Prize; astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell, who discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967, but was excluded from the Nobel prize awarded to her thesis supervisor Antony Hewish and astronomer Martin Ryle. A similar fate befell Rosalind Franklin, the chemist excluded from the Nobel prize awarded to her colleagues James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins for the discovery of DNA, and Lise Meitner who led the research that ultimately discovered nuclear fission, however it was Meitner’s colleague Otto Hahn who received the accolades, a Nobel Prize in Chemistry and renown as the discoverer of nuclear fission. In the 1950s, physicist Chien-Shiung Wu devised a groundbreaking experiment to test the law of parity conservation, for which two male colleagues received a Nobel Prize.

The Matilda effect is a bias against acknowledging the achievements of women scientists whose work is attributed to their male colleagues.  


Dr Louise Olsen-Kettle is currently a Vice Chancellor’s Women in STEM fellow in mathematics at Swinburne University of Technology. Her research is in building mathematical and computational models of damage to provide new understanding in forecasting risk and damage in a range of novel materials and resources. Her research is transferable across many industry sectors including composites, manufacturing, oil and gas, construction, and mining. Louise has a PhD in theoretical and computational physics & chemistry, and has postdoctoral research experience at National Taiwan University and the University of Queensland. She was an ARC Discovery Early Career Research fellow until 2019.

Event contact

Dr Louise Olsen-Kettle

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