International Day of Women and Girls in Science

This year’s theme centres on water, which unites us in the way we need it today, how we care for it into the future; and what it means for humanity’s progress as we explore new frontiers. These stories demonstrate the crucial work women scientists are doing now to ensure water’s fair and efficient use, its health and how we safeguard its future – Dr Amanda Caples, Victoria’s Lead Scientist.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science (#IDWGS) is celebrated on February 11 every year around the world. It was first announced by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, as a global movement recognising women and girls in science, not only as beneficiaries, but also as agents of change, leaders and inspiring role models in science.

Since the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science in 2015, the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Victoria’s Chief Environmental Scientist, and Victoria’s Lead Scientist, along with The Royal Society of Victoria, Inspiring Victoria and In2Science more recently, have partnered to bring the importance of STEM to women’s futures, into the public’s consciousness.

The 7th United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly focuses on the topic “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us". The partnership, led by the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, have developed a suite of stories of Victorian Women scientists who are making a positive impact to improve water in Victoria and beyond, as they navigate the opportunities and challenges for girls and women.

The Office of the Lead Scientist is particularly excited to share the following article celebrating the rising women scientists of the Monash Nova Rover team. This story was originally published on the Commission for Environment & Sustainability, where you can discover and share more stories of how women have pursued careers in science to make a real difference.

University Rover Challenge, Science task (2019)

Advancing Australia's space industry and capability

Meet the Victorian women behind next-generation Mars rovers

“The common phrase, two minds are greater than one perfectly encapsulates the essence of STEM” – and our team - Bec Leith.

The Monash Nova Rover Team is a multidisciplinary engineering student team aiming to build remotely-operated and autonomous Mars and Lunar rovers to compete in the annual University Rover Challenge (URC) held in Utah, US, and more recently, the inaugural Australian Rover Challenge (ARC) held in Adelaide, AUS. The team placed 9th overall out of a total of 84 teams internationally in URC 2019, and 1st out of 3 teams in ARC 2021.

The team’s made up of more than 90 Undergraduate and Postgraduate students with one third female representation. The team is already a leader in the development of rover technology in Australia, with competition missions requiring the rover to conduct in-situ resource identification, extract and deposit simulated lunar regolith at three potential sample sites bearing varying levels of frozen water.

Rovers will process the extracted regolith and deposit recovered liquid water and remnant material to the processing plant supply cache amongst other challenges.

Gemma Quinn is a senior member of this highly successful Monash Nova Rover team; some of her team members include scientists Chloe Chang, Bec Leith, and Michelle Fisher.

The team’s vision is to advance the development and representation of the Australian space sector on the global stage and foster engagement in STEM amongst younger generations. Today they shared their thoughts with us about why STEM is so important for women and the world.

Gemma just loves STEM, “My love of STEM has led me to study Aerospace Engineering and Immunology, and I enjoy working with the team that shares this passion. I'm the previous Chief Science Engineer of the Monash University Nova Rover team, co-leading the science team alongside Lauren Jennings to build science payloads that help the rover collect regolith, detect water, and determine signs of life.”

Chloe says, “I like science because it is the language that describes everything in the known universe”. She also touches on “fear of failure that stops more people especially women from pursuing a career in the male-dominated field”.

For Bec, “A big obstacle has been feeling the need or being asked to explain myself when I say I love STEM. I find that friends and even family challenge me and can’t believe that I could enjoy STEM when I’ve always been known as the ballerina. There is also the tendency for people to believe that because of being in the minority, employers will be more likely to hire females and therefore, my gender outweighs my skills”.

Michelle, the Robotic Arm Lead, knows that “confidence in oneself and one’s abilities play an essential role in empowering girls and young women to pursue STEM careers” and is something she has seen in her own life and the young women she leads. Michelle dedicates her time to giving girls that confidence, “I now run the Melbourne RoboCats, a high school robotics team and lead Monash Nova Rover’s Robotic Arm team with a focus on building confidence not just in yourself but what you are capable of becoming and achieving.”

Siena Zubcic, current Deputy Team Lead and previous Chassis Lead, says that "finding your place in STEM is as much about a conversation with others as it is about the conversation you have with yourself. Success does not come without growth, and growth does not come without being challenged. It's about the confidence to make mistakes, the responsibility to reflect on them and the capacity to discuss obstacles - and listen to others' experiences in return. That is why Nova is a place where everyone belongs; it bears a culture of tolerance and exploration, equipping its members with the skills and tools to thrive - and help others thrive - in the midst of the changing future."

Question and answer with the Nova Rover team

Question-and-answers with the Nova Rover team Q&A with the Nova Rover team about their experiences.docx (DOCX 24.53 KB)DOCX icon to learn more about their experience in the field.

Find out more about Monash Nova Rover, rovers, and space technology

Page last updated: 11 February 2022