Elizabeth New – 2000 & 2001 IChO
Growing up in Sydney, Dr Liz New’s earliest memory of science was a visit to her dad’s microbiology lab.
“My mum pricked her finger and showed me her blood under the microscope,” she says. “I was fascinated to see all the different types of cells.”
Liz’s interest in STEM led her to the Science Olympiads, where she decided to have a crack at the chemistry qualifying exam. After outperforming other students through tough rounds of selection, Liz competed at the 2000 International Chemistry Olympiad in Copenhagen, Denmark. This experience opened her eyes up to how much bigger science is than what you learn at high school.
Her fondest memory of the Olympiads is the closing ceremonies, two of which she attended as a student and another three as staff in later years. She enjoyed being able to “celebrate all the achievements of our own teams as well as those of all the friends we’d made throughout the week.” She continues to bump into old Olympiad friends and collaborate with them on research projects.
After graduating high school, she completed a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) with majors in chemistry, biochemistry and physiology. This paved the way for a PhD at the UK’s Durham University and postdoctoral research at UC Berkley in the US.
Today, Liz is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Sydney, enthusiastic researcher, and ASI Board Member. “I love teaching chemistry to university students and working alongside my research team in the lab,” she says.
Her research group develops fluorescent probes, which are molecules that absorb light of a short wavelength and emit light of a longer wavelength. She is investigating how these probes can help us understand biological systems and detect pollution.
Liz established this research group herself with minimal training in management and mentoring, and now considers it one of her proudest achievements. “I learnt on the job, and I have loved seeing many students graduate out of my group and go on to their own amazing career,” she says.
She encourages anyone considering a career in STEM to simply give it a go. “There are many different ways to work as a STEM expert beyond just the traditional research and development path,” she says. “People with a STEM mindset and approach are required throughout all sectors.”
Liz’s own career path has allowed her to be herself and pursue her passions. “What I love most about working in STEM is that I am paid to be curious and enthusiastic,” she says.
Outside of the lab, she enjoys reading, playing the viola, and raising her two children.