Cristy Burne, Aussie STEM Stars: Fiona Wood, Wild Dingo Press, September 2020, 168pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781925893281
Dianne Wolfer, Aussie STEM Stars: Munjed Al Muderis, Wild Dingo Press, September 2020, 168pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781925893373
Claire Saxby, Aussie STEM Stars: Georgia Ward-Fear, Wild Dingo Press, September 2020, 168pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781925893342
The idea behind this new series from Wild Dingo Press is to tell the inspiring stories of world-leading Australians in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and maths. These first three titles cover two surgeons readers may have heard of and a young conservationist who has made a name for herself exploring the relationship between cane toads and goannas, among other animal studies.
Fiona Wood is well-known for her world-leading work with burns victims, especially after the Bali bombings, and the invention of spray-on skin. Among her many awards is Australian of the Year in 2005. Her story is one of striving to do well despite her childhood in a Yorkshire mining community. How she gained her education and training before coming to Australia is fascinating and an inspiration.
Munjed Al Muderis was originally an Iraqi who escaped his war-torn country and came to Christmas Island on a people-smuggling boat. He gained medical qualifications in his native country and overseas and his passion was always designing, developing, and fitting the world’s best prostheses for amputees. He has become a leader in a technique known as osseointegration and in 2020 is NSW Australian of the Year.
Georgia Ward-Fear is much younger but is at the forefront of conservation research. She has worked in disparate regions all over Australia but spent several years researching for her PhD in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. There she studied how goannas might be trained to avoid eating adult cane toads, which kills them.
These three volumes are all very enjoyable to read. They are well-written and the narrative flows like a novel. As the target readership is 10-13 -year-olds, much of the early parts of the books focus on each of the person’s childhood before moving on to their education, research, and professional careers. Small fact boxes add extra information and drawings by Diana Silkina break up the text. Photos of each person would have been a nice touch and I don’t know that reading these books will prompt any young readers to pursue an interest in the STEM subjects, but these are engaging, accessible biographies about Australians in these fields.
Reviewed by Lynne Babbage