Defence researchers begin journey to STEM superstardom

Two of Defence’s most accomplished rising stars of research have been selected to take part in the Superstars of STEM initiative, which aims to raise public awareness of women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Aerospace engineer Crystal Forrester and operations analyst Dr Cayt Rowe have been chosen to participate in a two-year program that will see them gain advanced communication skills and become high-profile role models for young women and girls.

Run by peak body Science & Technology Australia, Superstars of STEM seeks to challenge gender stereotypes and increase representation of female STEM professionals as expert commentators in the media.

Final frontier
As an aircraft structural integrity engineer, Crystal has been involved in many exciting projects, working on aircraft such as the Black Hawk helicopter and Hornet fighter. But her true passion is space.

In her current role at Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) within the Department of Defence, Crystal establishes and leads space research programs in areas such as advanced structures, smart materials and advanced modelling.

“Space has always had the ability to inspire through science fiction novels, television, movies and real-world achievements such as the moon landings,” she says. “However, space engineering is often seen as a job only for certain types of people.

“I want to inspire people of all ages, genders and cultures to innovate and create science and technology that will benefit society and enable humans to one day travel beyond Mars.”

Bright future
We cannot predict the future, but it is Cayt’s job to help the leaders of the Australian Defence Force understand what will likely be required of them in the years ahead.

Using her background in mathematics, Cayt enables decision-makers to choose between different force design options, ensuring the military is well positioned to face the challenges of tomorrow

Her team at DSTG uses modelling and simulation, experimentation and wargaming to test what would happen in different scenarios. This work produces evidence that forms the basis of informed decision-making within Defence – and a similar approach could be applied elsewhere.

“My work is about improving how we make decisions about investing for the future,” Cayt says. “This type of organisational decision-making has applications across our whole society, including Government policy, private industry investments and even individual healthcare choices.

“By taking part in the program, I intend to raise the profile of operations analysis as a field of endeavour, as well as giving insight to young people as to the diverse applications of mathematical sciences.”

Cayt and Crystal are members of a select group of 60 women who have been chosen to participate in the 2021-22 Superstars of STEM program.