Karen didn’t have a favourite subject at school, but she loved discovering things and she loved looking up at the night sky. She never imaged that in the future, she might discover a new galaxy.

Karen Lee-Waddell is an Astrophysist working with CSIRO’s newest telescope the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP). She assures us though that astronomy isn't hard – all you have to do is go outside, look up and wonder "what is out there?"

She believes that STEM paired with curiosity can take all of us on amazing adventures and lead us to amazing discoveries.

[Music plays and an image appears of Karen looking upwards and then the image changes to show Karen talking to the camera and text appears: Karen Lee-Waddell, Astrophysicist, working with world-leading telescope ASKAP]

Karen Lee-Waddell: Our understanding of the universe is constantly changing. The more that we see, the more we’re starting to understand and know but then we realise the more we don’t actually know and understand.

[Image changes to show a CSIRO telescope and then the camera pans out to show Karen looking at the sky through the telescope and then the image changes to show Karen talking to the camera]

And so, as we discover all these new things it just asks a lot more questions. So, for every question we’re trying to answer we end up asking a thousand more questions.

[Image changes to show a side view of Karen looking through a telescope]

What is out there? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Why are we here?

[Images move through to show a CSIRO ute driving past the ASKAP Array, the rotating satellite dishes and a view looking down on the satellite dishes]  

With ASKAP we’re hoping to understand how the universe works. We’re actually trying to understand how galaxies form, how they evolved, how everything is changing over time.

[Image changes to show Karen talking to the camera]

It’s exciting. What I do is actually really exciting.

[Images move through to show a rear view of Karen at her computer, graphs on Karen’s computer display, a side view of Karen and then Karen talking to the camera]

I get to use a brand-new telescope and I get to go out there and I see what no one else has seen before. That’s the amazing part.

[Images move through to show a rear and facing view of Karen walking down a corridor, Karen looking through a telescope and a satellite dish]

So, I never really had a favourite subject in school. I actually loved all of school. I loved learning. I loved discovering and understanding things.

[Image changes to show a side view of Karen looking at the sky through a telescope]

I didn’t want to just focus on one discipline. I wanted to do everything, and STEM helped me do everything.

[Images move through to show rear view of Karen looking at a satellite, Karen looking at the night sky and Karen talking to the camera]

STEM doesn’t need to just be a single career choice. It leads to all career choices. With a STEM career you can discover anything. You can do anything with STEM.

[Music plays and the CSIRO logo and text appears: Where could a STEM career take you? #STEMinSchools]

[Text changes to read: Australia’s innovation catalyst]

Meet Karen Lee Waddell :  Karen works in astronomy, and has even discovered her own galaxy!

What was your favourite subject at school?

Karen observing the sky at dusk  ©CSIRO

I didn't have a favourite subject at school – I just loved learning and discovering new things. When I was eight or nine my sister took me out to the countryside. On our way home she stopped the car and pointed to some constellations in the night sky. I loved it - from that moment I was hooked. For a while I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, but exploring the night sky with my telescope was always magic to me and it always drew me back.

What is it that you are working on now?

The project I am working on now, with the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), will survey 75 per cent of the entire sky. We are already learning so much about the lifecycle of galaxies, and of course, the more we know about other galaxies the more we know about our own. There is something truly mind-blowing about getting to see things that no one else has seen before.

Discoveries about the origins of galaxies helps add answers to some of the most basic questions humans have… where did we come from? And where are we going?

What do you love most about STEM?

STEM doesn’t just lead to one career choice. STEM leads to all career choices, you can do anything with STEM.

Learn more about ASKAP.

Contact us

 
Your contact details

First name must be filled in

We'll need to know what you want to contact us about so we can give you an answer.