International Women’s Day: An interview with Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith

International Women's Day - Lisa Harvey-Smith

Register to attend DESE’s International Women’s Day virtual panel discussion - Women in Data Science on Tuesday 8 March. Special guest, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador will be joining us.

Next Tuesday is International Women’s Day (IWD). On this occasion we reflect on progress, call for change, celebrate the courage and determination of the women who changed history, and those who are continuing to advance gender equality.

We spoke to Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith ahead of the panel event, about her life and journey into astronomy and astrophysics. Lisa’s career path was unconventional, leaving formal schooling at the age of 11 to teach herself, which she chose over the local secondary schools in her area.

“I remember going around and they told me that girls had to do netball and boys had to do soccer. Girls were doing different subjects; they couldn’t do woodwork - and I just couldn’t deal with that segregation,” Lisa said.

“I wanted to explore everything that education had to offer so I actually taught myself at home for the next five years or so.”

After a few years of home education Lisa realised that what she really wanted was to go to university to study astrophysics and become an astronomer and scientist. Lisa now has Masters degree in Physics with Honours in Astronomy and Astrophysics and a Ph.D. in Radio Astronomy.

Lisa has published more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers on topics as varied as the birth and death of stars, cosmic magnetic fields and supermassive black holes. She serves on several scientific advisory committees including the advisory group to the Australian Space Agency and the Questacon board. Somehow, Lisa still finds time to participate fully in pursuits outside of science, competing in javelin and running ultra-marathons.  

“I want people to know that scientists are well rounded people and have a lot of interests in both social and physical pursuits, and I think that’s important to tell kids too,” Lisa said.

Of course, with such an incredible career, we couldn’t finish the interview without asking Lisa if she could identify a single career highlight.

“There are so many, but working with astronauts who’ve actually walked on the surface of the moon, like Buzz Aldrin and Eugene Cernan who flew to the moon not once but twice. Just meeting these guys…. was just incredible, an incredible honour!”

Watch the full interview with Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith below.

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International Women’s Day virtual panel discussion - Women in Data Science

In celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) on Tuesday 8 March, DESE will host a regional event as part of the Stanford Women in Data Science Worldwide conference. To host this event, we collaborated with the departments ​Gender Equity Network, Women in Data and Digital Group and Women in Big Data Canberra.

Find out more from Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith

Join us for a panel discussion with industry-leading women from government and academia who will discuss data science approaches currently used in government. In addition, the panel will explain the ‘new era’ of data science - moving beyond prediction to demonstrating causal inference. This event is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the impact on our world of a non-gender-diverse group designing our data and digital futures.


  • Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador
  • Professor Sally Cripps, Research Director, Analytics and Decision Sciences, Data61, CSIRO
  • Dr. Nandita Sharma, Director, Data Science, Australian Taxation Office

Date: Tuesday 8 March | Time: 2 pm – 3:30 pm| Register to attend event.

Correct at time of publication.