When 11-year-old Emma has her mum along to netball games, little do her teammates know that her mum is working to tackle one of the world’s deadliest diseases.
Professor Kathy Andrews is a leading biomedical scientist working to save millions of lives by finding new treatments for malaria, but when she leaves the Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery at the end of the day she is just like any other parent who has to get the school lunch ready.
Just like other scientists, Professor Andrews is busy with day-to-day life, something she is trying to highlight by demystifying the idea scientists are typically males in a lab, often with a ‘nutty professor image’.
Her first book, My mum is a parasite scientist, is part of a new project called That’s Rad! Science that Professor Andrews developed and leads.
The first three books in the series are partially funded by the Queensland Government under an Advance Queensland Engaging Science grant, with the first book being launched during National Science Week. The first book is also supported by the Australian Society for Parasitology.
Professor Andrews’ ultimate aim through the That’s Rad! Science series of books is to encourage more children to consider a STEM career. Her daughter’s netball friends provided insightful interview questions that are featured in the book, while Emma provided feedback on drafts and created an activity page and plasticine parasite that is also featured.
The interactive, engaging and colourful book contains funny cartoon illustrations, interesting photos, fast facts and information on typical parasites children might be familiar with such as head lice and parasites like fleas and worms that can infect pets.
Professor Andrews also touches on her own area of malaria as well as those of other scientists working on parasites.
“I hope that the first book will help to teach primary school age children that parasites can be present in our everyday lives, that some parasites can make people or animals sick, and that scientists can help to develop new ways to prevent infection or new treatments for parasite infections,” said Professor Andrews.
“Children can make decisions about careers that inspire them at a young age so we need to engage them early. Through the That’s Rad! Science project we want to make STEM and STEM jobs engaging to young children and also show them that scientists are a normal part of their community — including being mums who take the kids to netball!”
Professor Andrews’ daughter Emma said, “Having a scientist for a mum is just normal to me!”
This is just what Professor Andrews hopes is an outcome of the That’s Rad! Science series of books. Over the coming months around 1000 books will be distributed free to Queensland primary schools as part of this project.