As US sitcom The Big Bang Theory continues to make even the nerdiest science cool, we’ve tracked down the real-life faces of Australia’s top early-career science communicators: the Top 5 Under 40.
Following a nationwide search, The University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) and ABC RN are delighted to announce the Top 5 Under 40 – the next generation of Australian science minds under the age of 40, who will embark on a two-week residency at RN, the ABC’s national ideas network.
Now in its third year, the Top 5 Under 40 initiative gives voice to Australian science researchers across the country, who contribute to the betterment of society in Australia and around the world. Providing an in-house incubator based at RN, the program nurtures the communication skills and media awareness of the Top 5 Under 40 to bring their knowledge and expertise to content-hungry audiences seeking information, entertainment and debate.
Supported by UNSW Sydney, one of Australia’s leading universities, the Top 5 Under 40 will work alongside some of Australia’s best science journalists to train in the craft of radio and TV interviews, and develop content to engage audiences across the ABC.
This year’s Top 5 Under 40 are:
- Dr Sophie Calabretto (Macquarie University), an applied mathematician who studies fluid dynamics –the way that fluids move. Her work has applications as diverse as aerospace engineering and climate modelling.
- Dr Denton Callander (The Kirby Institute, UNSW), a medical science researcher who studies the intersection between sex, sexually transmitted infections and technology.
- Dr Tom Raimondo (University of South Australia), a geoscientist who's interested in unlocking the secret history of Australia's ancient landscape with a particular focus on its relationship with Antarctic geology.
- Dr Ursula Sansom-Daly (UNSW Medicine), a 'psych-oncologist' – someone who studies and treats the psychological effects that cancer has on its sufferers. She has a particular interest in the effect cancer has on adolescents and young adults.
- Dr Gemma Sharp (Curtin University), a psychologist and medical science researcher. She's trying to work out why so many Australians are opting for genital altering cosmetic surgery these days and what it says about our collective body image issues.
An overwhelming number of quality applications were submitted to the 2017 initiative. Presenter of ABC RN’s The Science Show, Robyn Williams co-adjudicated this year’s entries, alongside Professor Fiona Stanley, epidemiologist from the University of Western Australia and founding director of the Telethon Kids Institute, and Professor Merlin Crossley, UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor and former Dean of Science.
“The standard of both the science and the communication skills of the coming generation in this country is superb,” says Williams. “A secret to succeeding in this space is enthusiasm, and taking the media and scientific practice seriously – and above all, understanding the importance of science in the community.
This year’s candidates were brilliant, and proof of this is that we are already working with not only the Top 5 Under 40, but also some science thinkers from outside of the final five, to produce stories and content. Australia should be proud.”
Top 5 Under 40 alumni Niraj Lal credits his ABC residency for propelling him to recent appearances across Australian screens, including as Guest Physicist on ABC TV’s Todd Samson's Life on the Line.
“I was exposed to the magical cauldron of story-telling that bubbles and flames every day at the most respected broadcaster in the country,” says Lal. "I learnt the finer points of the art of capturing attention, from the sharpest journalists in Australia and had my scientific stories crafted, framed and broadcast to all corners of Australia and beyond.”
Following their mid-year residencies, the Top 5 Under 40 will be among ABC’S representation during National Science Week, 12-20 August 2017.