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14 March 2022 2 min read

Professor Bronwyn Fox is our latest Chief Scientist. She took up the position last year becoming our fourth female Chief Scientist.

Bronwyn is a materials engineer with a keen interest in the manufacturing of lightweight materials. Her most recent role was at Swinburne University of Technology, where she was the head of its Factory of the Future.

©  Copyright NICK PITSAS

Welcome back to CSIRO. We hear you've been here before?

Correct! I started with CSIRO as a 22-year-old research assistant.

It's wonderful to return as the Chief Scientist after starting here as a fresh graduate back in the 1990s. I am passionate about championing science research and capability, as well as working with industry and fostering STEM careers.

Tell us about your area of interest

I've always seen myself in engineering terms as a systems integrator. To me, that is the next frontier. I am always asking, 'How do we combine design with manufacturing in a more integrated and robust way?' It's really thinking about that next generation product.

I think we're only at the beginning of a manufacturing renaissance in Australia.

©  Copyright NICK PITSAS

You are our fourth female Chief Scientist. How do we encourage women into STEM and leadership roles?

It’s critical for us to have more role models. Several years ago, I organised a Women in STEM lunch for my team to welcome an international visitor. I suddenly realised that half of my team of 30 were women.

I’d recruited some amazing women who’d then encouraged other women to join our group; together we had created a cascade effect.

What would you say to young women considering a career in STEM?

Even though I’m the daughter of two scientists, I used to think scientists typically worked in isolation in their labs. I now realise that science is a team sport and people are the most important part of science.

There is such a variety of meaningful and purposeful work for women in STEM. It’s very stimulating and no day is ever the same. The thrill of discovery is unlike anything else.

Scientists and engineers find solutions to real world problems and create new technologies. There will continue to be both a strong need and a market for people with STEM qualifications.

COVID-19 and climate change are key issues now. What other problems do you think science will need to solve in the near future?

I recently chaired a roundtable discussion on the energy-food-water nexus. This, along with protecting our environment will continue to be a key focus and a challenge for society. Here, we have an opportunity to learn from Indigenous knowledge and science.

Digitalisation is already one of the world’s megatrends and we are only at the start. I’ve been interested in the digitalisation of manufacturing, Industry 4.0, for some time.

There are many challenges for society to solve. Through our cutting-edge science at CSIRO, we can make an enormous contribution to the sustainability and prosperity of Australia.

With Bronwyn now in the role, for the first time, women fill the three top government science positions in Australia. The other two are Australia's Chief Scientist Cathy Foley and Defence chief scientist Tanya Monro.

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