Dr Carol Oliver is a nationally and internationally known expert in evidence-based science communication and science education outreach working across the sciences in the space-related and astrobiology fields.
She is a Senior Research Fellow with the Australian Centre for Astrobiology in the Faculty of Science – and may be the only science communication researcher in the world fully embedded into science research. She supervises three PhD students and is co-supervisor for another two students.
In the past two years she has raised almost $4m – nearly $1m with the Australian Space Research Program funded by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research, and Tertiary Education, and $2.9m with the NBN-Enabled Education and Skills Services program funded by the Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations.
The first grant established the Pathways to Space education and research project at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, and the second is to build on and extend the project Australia-wide. The first grant enabled the building of a 140-square metre Mars Yard and robotics lab in which science and robotics research is carried out and integrated with a high school ‘Mission to Mars’ experience. There are also up to 40 undergraduate research projects each year and five doctoral programs. Pathways to Space was created in collaboration with the Powerhouse Museum and the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney, a now well-established partnership.
Some of the Year 10 and 11 Pathways to Space students have gone on to work on a NASA research project within Pathways to Space, and have had an abstract accepted at the Australian Space Science Conference for the Planetary Science Session at the end of September 2012.
Evidence provided by the Pathways to Space project reveals high school students are capable of understanding and integrating complex concepts and can apply them to truly original research.They are digital natives learning in ways totally different to that seen among students even a decade ago.
In addition to the above Dr Oliver is a member of the NASA Astrobiology teams at MIT and Arizona State University, developing Virtual Field Trips with dynamic, immersive 3-D technologies with others on the team.
She is an elected full member of the International Academy of Astronautics as a result of her international space-related education outreach activities.