She already leads a national team of roboticists giving robots the gift of sight – now Dr Sue Keay will be a mentor and role model for young women in STEM across Australia.
The QUT-based Chief Operating Officer of the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision is one of only 30 women named Superstars of STEM by Science & Technology Australia (STA).
Dr Keay was selected from more than 300 applicants in the inaugural year of the program.
STA’s program aims to support female leaders in communicating their science and inspiring others to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“This program is vital to ensure that women participate and remain engaged in STEM,” Dr Keay said.
Dr Keay has been the Chief Operating Officer for the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision since it was created in 2014.
As an Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence, the Centre brings together the disciplines of robotics and computer vision, with researchers working to create robots that see and understand their environment.
“There are very few women in technology. There are even fewer in robotics and computer vision. Yet, the opportunities to change the world in these fields is incredible,” Dr Keay said.
“I am highly motivated to raise the profile of technology, especially amongst women, to ensure that Australia is prepared for the significant changes that will soon engulf us.
“From robotic process automation to autonomous vehicles, things that were once in the realm of science fiction will soon become a reality.”
Recently, Dr Keay developed a successful $1.5-million R&D project on humanoid robotics supported by the Queensland Government to explore the vision capabilities of Softbank’s social robot, Pepper.
STA said the Superstars of STEM program would also include a mentoring component.
Participants will share their stories at local high schools to ensure they are connecting with young Australian women interested in STEM.
“We want Australian girls to realise that there are some amazing, capable and impressive women working as scientists and technologists too, and that they work in and out of the lab in places you might not expect,” says Professor Emma Johnston, STA President-Elect.
As a mother of two daughters, Dr Keay said she had always felt a responsibility to make sure there were more STEM opportunities for young women.
“There were significant improvements in the workplace from my mother’s generation to my own, but I don’t see a similar amount of progress benefitting my daughters’ generation. This has to change, and I’m keen to be an active participant in changing things,” Dr Keay said.
The 30 women selected for the Superstars of STEM program will receive training and development to use social media, TV, radio and public speaking opportunities to talk about their science and to spread the word about the women in STEM.
Of the final 30, eight are from Victoria, eight from New South Wales, five from South Australia, five from Queensland, two from Tasmania and two from the Australian Capitol Territory.