An Aussie astronaut, a whale scientist, 3D-printed animal bits, and microbiology for neurodiversity

Exclude from Home Page, Media releases, National Science Week

National Science Week offers dozens of stories featuring powerhouses of Women in Science

  • Meganne Christian: an evening with an Aussie engineer turned future astronaut.
  • Meet the female curators, artists and scientists behind the DARK MATTERS exhibition.
  • Whales, poo, Antarctica, and onboard a Southern Ocean research ship with Dr Vanessa Pirotta.
  • Rethink gender stereotypes by exploring the world of female reproduction in the animal kingdom, with science communicator Tiana Pirtle.
  • Should we embrace our animal nature? Science comedian Alanta Colley moderates the Sci fight Science Comedy Debate.
  • Software, sunscreen and STEM Sisters: pop-up science talks outside the State Library.
  • Black Holes: Journey into the unknown with Dr Tanya Hill.
  • ‘Scab’: MicroToons animation brings microbiology to people with autism, lead by scientist and author Dr Rina Fu.

More on these below and visit to find more stories in your area.

Scientists, experts, performers and event organisers are available for interview throughout National Science Week.

Direct contact details for each event are below or contact Tanya Ha on or 0404 083 863.

Media centre here. Images for media here.

Individual event details and media contacts

Meganne Christian: an evening with an Aussie engineer turned future astronaut – Kensington, NSW

Join astronaut reservist, UNSW alumna and engineer Dr Meganne Christian in conversation with Aude Vignelles, Chief Technology Officer of the Australian Space Agency.

In 2022, Dr Christian was selected to join the European Space Agency’s astronaut reserve, putting her on course to become one of the first Australian females in orbit. The possibility of going to space fulfills a lifelong dream for Dr Christian and culminates a career in engineering, renewable energy and atmospheric research.

Driven by a sense of adventure, Dr Christian decided to apply for the astronaut reserve after surviving a challenging year of atmospheric research in Antarctica’s Concordia station, dubbed ‘White Mars’ for its isolation and harsh conditions. Meganne Christian invites us to imagine a future where the stars are within our reach.

Tuesday 15 August:

Media enquiries: Siân Davies,, 0402 728 462; or Sasha Haughan,, 0405 006 035.

The art of dark matter – Carlton, VIC

Dark matter consists of a mysterious substance that does not present an interaction with electromagnetic forces, which means it does not absorb, reflect it, or emit light.

The DARK MATTERS exhibition explores the mysterious substance that makes up 85 per cent of the matter in the universe. It’s a collaboration between Science Gallery Melbourne, Arts at CERN and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics.

Through local and international experimental projects – some developed in conversation with scientists and researchers – explore life and all the dark matter that flows through it, under it and collides with it.

Available for interviews:

  • exhibition co-curator Mónica Bello, Head of Arts at CERN
  • exhibition co-curator Tilly Boleyn, Head of Curatorial at Science Gallery Melbourne
  • expert advisor panel member Professor Elisabetta Barberio, particle physicist and Director of ARC Centre of Excellence for Dark Matter Particle Physics
  • poet, artist, broadcaster and co-creator of exhibit ‘IN THIS ROOM. EVERYWHERE.’, Alicia Sometimes

Wednesday 5 August – Thursday 30 November:

Media enquiries: Katrina Hall, or 0421 153 046.

Whales, poo, Antarctica, and onboard a Southern Ocean research ship with Vanessa Pirotta – online

  • Why do whales go to Antarctica?
  • Why are whales important for our ocean? (Clue: poo)
  • What is it like to do science on a ship in the middle of the ocean?
  • If we could talk to a whale, what would she tell us about Antarctica?
  • What is it like to grow up to be a whale scientist?

Ask wildlife biologist and author Dr Vanessa Pirotta as she shares her science, reads her new children’s book The Voyage of Whale and Calf, and takes people a virtual tour of a scientific research vessel – all broadcast online from the CSIRO’s blue-water research vessel, RV Investigator.

Wednesday 16 August: “Whales, poo and Antarctica all make the world go round!” with Dr Vanessa Pirotta

Thursday 17 August: The Voyage of Whale and Calf – Storytime from a CSIRO Science Ship

Thursday 17 August: Virtual tour of CSIRO’s RV Investigator

Media enquiries: Tanya Ha on or 0404 083 863.

Improv and 3D-printed animal vaginas reveal the world of female reproduction – Hobart, VIC

Think the vagina is a simple tube? Think again.

Science communicator Tiana Pirtle explains the unexpected female reproductive strategies with a series of interactive improv skits and an exhibit of 3D-printed animal vaginas.

Learn about multi-chambered vaginas and temporary passages, elongated clitorises, pseudo-penises, vaginas that can sort sperm, and armoured vaginal openings.

From Aristotle through Darwin and still today, the stereotypes of the male as the active player in sex and the female as the passive recipient of sperm have guided biological and evolutionary research. It’s time to look at the science and re-write these stories.

Wednesday 16 August:

Media enquiries: Tiana Pirtle,

Sci fight Science Comedy Debate: We should embrace our animal nature – Carlton, VIC

Join six human animal scientists and debaters and host Alanta Colley as they wrestle with this existential question of who we are, and how we can be happy.

Sci fight is a quarterly Science Comedy Debate where scientists and comedians come together to debate serious issues in a ridiculous manner. This round’s topic: We should embrace our animal nature.

We are animals. We may have pulled ourselves out of the primordial muck by our bootstraps. We may have invented sophistications such as chess, quantum mechanics and the Nutbush. We may have developed consciousness, closely followed by curiosity, hope, and existential despair. But have we forgotten our roots?

Many of the things that bring us misery in the current day are constructs we invented. Inflation. The 5-day work week. Brexit. You’ve never seen a bonobo stressing over whether their stock portfolio offers an adequate return on investment. Would we be better off if we shrugged off our fictional fetters and returned to a simpler, more primal existence?

Saturday 19 August:

Media enquiries: Alanta Colley, or 0478 143 905.

Software, sunscreen and STEM Sisters: pop-up science talks outside the State Library – Melbourne, VIC

  • The singing immunologist and science communicator who was intrigued by a reaction to sunscreen – Dr Catriona Nguyen-Robertson
  • The software engineer and TEDx speaker developing the idea of ‘agile nations’ – Dr Rashina Hoda
  • Exploring what’s driving the disease progression in Motor Neuron Disease – PhD candidate Chau Tran.

These are just 3 of the 12 female scientists, technologists and experts sharing their work, giving short talks outside the State Library of Victoria.

Organised by STEM Sisters, Soapbox Science is coming back for the 12th year to continue its mission to highlight the importance of science and capture the attention of people from all walks of life by offering STEM women from underrepresented nations the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Friday 18 August:

Media enquiries: Ruwangi Fernando, or 0451 951 066.

Dr Ruwangi Fernando from STEM Sisters is available for media interviews.

Black Holes: Journey into the unknown with Dr Tanya Hill – Carlton, VIC

Black Holes are the opposite of existence, a fact which garners intense curiosity and intrigue. This film narrated by Geoffrey Rush and screened in the darkness of the Neversphere brings the galactic phenomenon to life in vivid detail.

Witness all that is extreme and fascinating about black holes and, after the show, hear from Melbourne Planetarium astronomer Dr Tanya Hill (an establishing member of the Astronomical Society of Australia’s Women in Astronomy Chapter) about the science and discovery of a cosmic truth and triumph of modern science.

Sunday 20 August:

Media enquiries: Museums Victoria media team, or 0466 622 621.

‘Scab’: MicroToons animation brings microbiology to people with autism – Medina, WA

From the award-winning makers of Microtoons ‘Pimple’, comes the new animated cartoon ‘Scab’.

People with autism can struggle to engage with science, technology, and art, but when they manage to it can empower them. MicroToons is an animated science cartoon designed to do just that.

MicroToons ‘Scab’ is based on a short story of cells and nasty microbes, written by microbiologist and ‘My Mad Scientist Mummy’ children’s book author Rina Fu and brought to life by artists with autism under the mentorship of Dr Rina and Red Bird Creative producer Aaron Welch.

MicroToons is a joint effort between Dr Rina, disabilities service provider 4LifeSkills, and animation studio Red Bird Creative. MicroToons ‘Scab’, a new 3-minute animation, will premiere at a launch event with popcorn, behind-the-scenes insights, and interactive and inclusive science fun for all ages and abilities, including people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

The inaugural MicroToons ‘Pimple’ – that received eight international awards and screened at over 30 film festivals last year – will also screen.

Friday 25 August. Event details:

Media enquiries: Dr Rina Fu, or 0403 139 745.

About National Science Week

National Science Week is Australia’s annual opportunity to meet scientists, discuss hot topics, do science and celebrate its cultural and economic impact on society – from art to astrophysics, chemistry to climate change, and forensics to future food.

First held in 1997, National Science Week has become one of Australia’s largest festivals. Last year about 1.9 million people participated in more than 1,650 events and activities. 

The festival is proudly supported by the Australian Government, CSIRO, the Australian Science Teachers Association, and the ABC.

In 2023 it runs from Saturday 12 to Sunday 20 August. Event details can be found at