In summary

  • Two Melbourne-based astrophysicists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) have collaborated on a colouring book called Women in Physics
  • The recently launched book encourages girls to follow their passions in science and learn about the amazing women who changed the course of history with their physics research

Swinburne’s Debatri Chattopadhyay and Isobel Romero-Shaw from Monash University – who are both completing their PhDs in astrophysics with OzGrav – are determined to educate children and young people about the pivotal scientific discoveries and contributions made by women scientists. They also want to encourage more girls, women, and minorities to take up careers in the male-dominated fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM). 

Debatri, who is originally from India, came to Australia pursuing her PhD at Swinburne University in 2017. She was acutely aware of the lack of women in STEMM fields, as both of her parents worked in biological sciences. ‘My father is a scientist, so I was aware that this was a field I could go into, and he would talk about amazing biologists like Barbara McClintock, but there was almost no representation of female scientists on TV or in newspapers,’ she recalls. 

‘This colouring book will help children learn about the colourful lives and brilliant minds of these amazing women scientists. As a colouring book, it encourages creative minds to think about scientific problems – which is very much needed for problem solving,’ says Isobel, who designed the book and illustrated each of the featured scientists. ‘These women, who made absolutely pioneering discoveries, used their creativity to advance the world as we know it.’ 

‘I did intense research for the biographies of the women featured in the book and at every nook and crevice was amazed at the perseverance they showed. It is for them and countless others, unfortunately undocumented, that we can do what we do today,’ says Debatri. ‘With Christmas approaching, this book is a perfect gift for young children who have a hunger for science. It’s both fun and educational!’ she added. 

Last year, both Isobel and Debatri were also selected to participate in Homeward Bound, a global program designed to provide cutting-edge leadership training to 1,000 women in STEMM over 10 years. To raise awareness of climate change, this journey will take Isobel and Debatri all the way to Earth’s frozen desert, Antarctica.

In their ‘day jobs’, Isobel tries to figure out how the collapsed remains of supergiant stars – black holes and neutron stars – meet up and crash together. She does this by studying the vibrations that these collisions send rippling through space-time – these are called gravitational waves.

Debatri is involved in doing simulations in supercomputers of dead stars in binaries or in massive collections of other stellar systems – called globular clusters. Her detailed theoretical calculations help us to understand the astrophysics behind the observations of gravitational waves and radio pulsars, as well as predict what surprising observations might be made in the future. She has recently submitted her thesis.

Related articles