Professor Susan Scott has established herself as one of Australia’s top experts in theoretical physics. She was apart of the 1000-strong Nobel Prize winning team for their discovery of gravitational waves.
Susan also became the first female Professor of Physics (with one other woman) at the Australian National University in 2009. Her research expertise is in gravitational physics, general relativity theory, cosmology and gravitational waves.
Susan’s interest in physics started when she was in primary school in Melbourne and saw the first luna landing on the moon.
“I was extremely inspired by it and by the time I was 14 at high school, I knew that I was deeply interested in physics and wanted to pursue a career in it. I didn’t know what it involved at the time, but I knew that it sparked my excitement,” Susan said.
Her most proudest moment was when her team made the first detection of gravitational waves ever, the waves being predicted by Einstein 100 years ago.
“To finally achieve that in 2015 was an amazing moment in my career and life, it was a dawn of a new era and it was phenomenally exciting.”
“I was very inspired in my career by Marie Curie, she was a very famous female physicist, well ahead of her time. In the fact that there were very few women in the western world doing physics when she was and not only was she doing it she was one of the best in her field and won the Noble Prize twice. She remained very true to her values throughout her career which I personally find very inspiring for my own career,” Susan said.
“I think the biggest driver for me is curiosity and adventure and that applies to my working life in theoretical physics as well as my personal life. The curiosity drives me to understand much more deeply the way the universe works and problems that we have in understanding parts of the universe.”
“The biggest lesson I’ve learnt throughout my career and my life is to always remain true to my values and use that as a guiding force for all the decisions I make in my career and in my life, because I found that that’s the one thing I can always count on. If I adhere to my values then I can feel really good about myself as a person and therefore really good about other people too.”
The best advice that Susan received was from her father when she was a child. “I think he could see I was a bit of a perfectionist and always trying to do difficult things. He said to me to always tackle the easiest things first and work outwards and that’s always been on the back of my mind throughout my life, because I naturally tend to go the other way. But I think it’s a very practical piece of advice which I have tried to work in the direction of satisfying,” Susan said.
Susan is also involved in the Homeward Bound initiative, a program designed to support female STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) workers.
“I was really excited about the combination of readership training for women scientists in against the very fragile background of Antarctica. These are two things that are very close to my heart, the programs of women in STEMM generally but also the health of our planet and what we can do to ensure that we have a future for ourselves, our children and future generations,” Susan said.