Back to All Events

Public Lecture: Mind Over Matter: why chemistry has an image problem and what we can do about it

  • Cuming Theatre The School of Chemistry, The University of Melbourne Parkville, Melbourne Australia (map)

Public Lecture brought to you by the Melbourne University Chemical Society and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science

Mind Over Matter: why chemistry has an image problem and what we can do about it

If chemistry is literally the stuff of life and the world around us, why does beauty product advertising proclaim “chemical-free” as something desirable? 

Cyanide, DDT, uranium, and carbon dioxide are all chemicals. So are d-limonene (the smell of oranges), water, oxytocin (the love hormone) and vitamin C. Yet we live in an age where chemophobia - the irrational fear of chemicals - is running rife through wellness posts on Facebook, and ordinary people would rather listen to Gwyneth Paltrow than health or scientific experts.

In 2016, the Australian Academy of Science published the latest Decadal Plan for Australian Chemistry. It highlighted that chemistry has a image problem, and misconceptions start early in life. It also set a strategic goal to do something about it.

In this talk, broadcaster, science communicator and University of Melbourne chemistry graduate Tanya Ha talks about the importance of telling the stories of chemistry: acknowledging the fears, presenting the facts, and sharing the fascinating and exciting success stories. She encourages students, researchers and the broad chemistry community to take up the challenge and be part of the solution*.

(*rather than the precipitate, sinking to the bottom).

newspapers 2 optomistic.jpg

About the speaker
Tanya Ha is an award-winning science journalist, best-selling author and environmental campaigner. She is a media commentator on science and environmental topics, and a behaviour change consultant.

Tanya’s work focuses on linking science with broader society. She is currently Director of Engagement at Science in Public and an Associate of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute. She manages publicity for National Science Week, communication for the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia, and media programs for scientific conferences.

Tanya has extensive print, radio and TV media experience, including reporting for ABC’s Catalyst, and presenting SBS’s Eco House Challenge. She won a UN environmental reporting award for her work on the climate change documentary/lifestyle show Warm TV. She is a highly-regarded speaker, and has hosted major public events at the World Science Festival Brisbane, Victoria’s Parliament House and Adelaide’s World Environment Fair.

Tanya is on the advisory groups of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science, the Thrive Research Hub, and the Science Gallery Melbourne. She has also served on the boards of Sustainability Victoria and Keep Australia Beautiful.

Tanya was one of the thousand ‘best and brightest’ selected as delegates for the Australia 2020 Summit. She has also taught and tutored human behaviour and environment (environmental psychology) at the University of Melbourne.

Tanya’s books include Greeniology and Green Stuff for Kids. She holds a BSc (majoring in Chemistry) and a MEnv from the University of Melbourne. She is a passionate advocate for sustainability, scientific literacy and gender equity.

Later Event: November 7
Hans C Freeman Lecture, Sydney