Kristen Harley

  • Communications and Engagement Manager
  • EQUS
  • University of Queensland
  • Road-tripping around VIC/NSW and behind the scenes

What do you do?

I promote quantum and the cool work done at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) to EQUS members, other physicists and the public.  This includes managing the EQUS website and social media, writing news stories, and helping to coordinate events and outreach activities, such as the National Quantum & Dark Matter Road Trip.

How did you get to where you are today?

I’ve always loved maths, so at university I studied maths and physics, including Honours and a PhD in maths.  My PhD was about developing new maths to help improve our understanding of biological processes such as tumour growth and wound healing.  The key to it all was canard solutions, which are so-named because they look a bit like ducks when plotted and are basically impossible to see numerically or physically, so were thought to be a hoax.  Between my PhD and my current job, I worked at a subeditor on the science journal Nature and as a digital producer for the charity Cancer Research UK.

What’s the best thing about your role?

The best thing about my job is the variety, which means I don’t get bored and I learn new things every day.  I like that my work still involves a lot of problem solving and project management, despite no longer being a researcher.  I also get to meet a bunch of great people and do fun activities like driving across Australia in the name of quantum.

What advice would you give to someone considering studying science?

If you enjoy it, do it.  There are so many possible career pathways to choose from and you don’t have to know where you’re going to start your journey!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I have absolutely no idea what I’ll be doing in 5 years and that’s ok.  My career hasn’t gone how I expected, but it’s been fun nonetheless.  There’s an off-chance I’ll be the Chief Operating Officer of a Centre of Excellence, starting a charity or performing in musical theatre.  But most probably I’ll be doing something I haven’t even thought about yet.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I enjoy running, doing improv comedy, seeing and talking to friends, drag, bushwalking, and watching my favourite TV show (The Good Wife) and listening to my favourite music (Six the Musical and Eurovision) on repeat.

I’m also very passionate about improving equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM.  Although I’m pleased to see progress has been made over the past decade in terms of acknowledging the problems and having more conversations, systemic issues and barriers remain.  Alongside my communications and engagement duties, I sit on EQUS’ equity, diversity and inclusion committee, which helps to drive cultural change at EQUS and in the broader STEM community, to ensure everyone feels welcome and can achieve success.

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