Physicist blazes new trail for women

By LabOnline Staff
Wednesday, 04 May, 2011


Professor Mahananda Dasgupta, a new Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, continues to encourage and pave the way for women in the physics and science arena.

Professor Dasgupta is one of three women amongst the 17 top Australian scientists being admitted as new Fellows of the Academy this year.

She took part in the ‘Adopt a physicist’ program of the Australian Institute of Physics from 1995 onwards, to raise awareness about physics in schools. She continues to speak in schools on her own initiative.

“I was encouraged into physics by good science and maths teachers, and would like to help others follow this path,” she says.

Professor Dasgupta was the first woman in the history of the Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering at the Australian National University to be appointed to a permanent position in 2003, more than 50 years after its establishment.

She was the Woman in Physics Lecturer of 2004, travelling around Australia to help communicate physics to the public, and in 2006 she won the prestigious Pawsey medal from the Australian Academy of Science.

She also represented the Group of Eight universities at the recent Women in Science and Engineering summit at Parliament House held in April.

Professor Dasgupta is exploring the nuclear fusion process, which is shedding light on the quantum world. “The sun shines because of quantum processes,” she explains.

“The nucleus makes an ideal laboratory to study quantum physics as it is such a pure and isolated system. It allows us to understand the quantum physics that will provide the foundation for the control of tiny nanoscale devices.” Highly sensitive instrumentation that she developed for measuring fusion probabilities is now planned for use in research into materials, showing the interconnection of pure and applied physics.

Professor Dasgupta will present her work at the Shine Dome in Canberra today, Wednesday 4 May, as part of the Academy’s annual Science at the Shine Dome conference.

Details of the program including all speakers’ abstracts are at: www.science.org.au/sats2011/.

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