A lifelong passion for science

As a PhD candidate at the ANU Research School of Physics, Ash Pascale is living his childhood dream.

Growing up, Ash loved reading science fiction novels and watching countless episodes of Star Trek with his family. She particularly liked the fact that Science Her fiction always prioritized problem-solving over violence.

The fictional character Samantha Carter, an astrophysicist and engineer in the Stargate franchise, was also a big influence on Ash.

“As a child, I was always surrounded by strong female scientists in the sci-fi media, and I wanted to be like them when I grew up,” Ash says.

Now a scientist herself, she pursues a lifelong passion at ANU, researching cubic satellites and how to use water as an alternative fuel for rockets launched into space.

However, the path to my PhD was not linear. Samantha Carter wasn’t the only scientist who inspired her.

At school, Ash didn’t like exams. She found her time pressure too restrictive and she was not able to reach her full potential.

Her physics teacher, Mr. Ben, suggested completing a project as another way to showcase her knowledge. Ash soon excelled in research-based projects. It was this physics teacher that set Ash on a path to pursue science after high school.

After grade 12 Ash decided to move from his hometown of Perth to Canberra to pursue a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Engineering degree at ANU.

Ash has become familiar with the research environment offered by the university environment and has completed an honors degree in engineering. This experience reinforced my passion for science communication.

After graduating, Ash joined the Questacon team and worked as a science communicator for several years. After that, she wanted to change her mood completely and she moved to New York to do theater.

Returning to Australia in 2020, Ash survived COVID-19 as a math tutor and data analyst. It was this experience that ignited Ash’s desire to return to studying science.

“Science has been elevated to a lunchtime conversation as a result of COVID-19. We are determined to make an impact,” Ash says.

“I want to improve science education, especially in high school, to better understand why we study things and how to critically evaluate information.”

With this newfound enthusiasm, Ash enrolled in a PhD at ANU.

As our community celebrates National Science Week, Ash reminds us of the importance of teachers, mentors and people who lead science enthusiasts to pursue their passions, and the importance of giving back.

She thanked her PhD supervisor, Associate Professor Cormac Corr, and Dean, Professor Jodie Bradby.

“Cormac always makes time for our students and encourages us to broaden our horizons,” she says.

“Jodi is a leader who always listens to those around her. I couldn’t have had a better mentor.”

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