Swinburne PhD candidate, Debatri Chattopadhyay, has been accepted to join 98 other future female leaders from around the world in the Homeward Bound program - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collaborate and train in leadership for a sustainable world.
Debatri’s 12-month commitment will see her participate in online learning courses before travelling to Argentina and then on to Antarctica for a three-week voyage in 2022.
Originally from India, Debatri is pursuing her PhD at the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. She is also part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), where she studies the tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time.
“I theoretically model dead stars – black holes and neutron stars – in the giant supercomputer, OzSTAR, and make them merge as these collisions lead to the creation of gravitational waves,” Debatri says.
A desire to play a role in shaping the future motivated her to apply for the Homeward Bound program.
What is Homeward Bound?
Homeward Bound is a global leadership program for women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM), set against the backdrop of Antarctica. It aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape the future of our planet.
The initiative aims at combatting the global threat of climate change.
By connecting influential women in STEMM and putting them through this leadership initiative and creating global collaboration, Homeward Bound aims to ensure that there is greater diversity at the global leadership table.
“These chosen women across the world are trained thoroughly for a year in leadership skills, networking tools and the climate situation,” Debatri says.
“The program concludes with a three-week conference voyage to Antarctica, the continent being a prime example of how global warming is negatively impacting the ecosystem.”
Debatri applied to the program in April 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was worsening across the globe.
“I was greatly honoured to have been selected as a member of the sixth cohort. My training starts from 2021, ending with the Antarctic expedition the year after,” Debatri says.
Professor Jarrod Hurley, one of Debatri’s PhD supervisors, says: "Debatri has already shown great leadership qualities in developing her research and outreach skills. It is fantastic that she now has the opportunity to push these qualities further with Homeward Bound."
Dream come true
“It is a dream come true for me. I have always wanted to give something back to the society that helped me to progress. I have wanted to be an astrophysicist and study the cosmos since my early teenage years. Nothing gives me more pleasure than investigating and getting answers from the Universe.
“But over the years, like many other women in STEMM, I have observed and occasionally experienced the problem of the lack of racial and gender diversity,” she says.
Her objective has become to not only excel as a scientist but to stand as a role model for young girls.
“The necessity to smash stereotypes is more urgent than ever before,” Debatri adds.
“My scientific research can contribute to human knowledge, but to play a role in shaping a more equal future society. I need to nurture my leadership skills.”
“I consider it my responsibility to utilise my opportunities for the betterment of the planet and human society. The Homeward Bound initiative will foster and cultivate my abilities.”
Along with fellow OzGrav PhD candidate Isobel Romero-Shaw, who studies at Monash University, Debatri is raising money to pay for the training and the 21-day Antarctic voyage that makes up the final challenge of their training.