On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Australia’s newest technology frontier is well-populated by outstanding women.
Nanotechnology – the development of new products and processes based on phenomena occurring at the scale of a billionth of a meter – is expected to drive significant innovation in many of Australia’s most important industries, including medical devices and diagnostics, water, energy, new materials, and manufacturing.
Prominent in nanotechnologies in the USA are Angela Belcher and Jennifer West. Angela Belcher is Professor of Materials Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and works on genetically modified viruses to make nanoelectronics components. She is also a founder of Cambrios Technologies. Jennifer West is Professor of Bioengineering at Rice University, and is a leader in the development and application of metal nanoshells. Nanoshells are a new type of nanoparticle with tunable optical properties which can be designed to strongly absorb or scatter light in the near infrared where tissue and blood are relatively transparent. In a cancer therapy application, nanoshells are designed to absorb light and convert the energy to heat for tumor destruction.
In Australia, women are also prominent. Professor Irene Yarovsky in one of the foremost molecular modelers, and was awarded the 2006 NanoVic Prize for Industrial Innovation. Jackie Fairley is CEO of one of Australia’s most exciting nanotechnology firms, Starpharma. Georgia Miller and Rye Senjen are leaders of Friends of the Earth’s Nanotechnology Project, producing perspectives on the issues relating to the risks of nanotechnology. Tina Rankovic is CEO of the Australian Nano Business Forum, the Australian industry’s peak body. Jane Niall of the Victorian Government has led nanotechnology strategy for the State for the last 5 years, and was the Asia-Pacific chairman of MANCEF. Francesca Calati has designed a Statewide curriculum for the teaching of nanotechnology in secondary schools.
The CEO of Nanotechnology Victoria, Dr Peter Binks, commented: “The profile of nanotechnology reflects the very important role women are playing in the generation of new science and new businesses. Australian women are playing leadership roles in this new field”