Quantum Words Festival 2016

From the intricacies of DNA to alien planetary systems, science offers writers unparalleled scope to explore the universe and what it is to be human.

The NSW Writers’ Centre’s inaugural Quantum Words Festival, on 12 November 2016, will discuss the secrets and challenges of writing about science across any genre – be that journalism, children’s books, poetry or literary fiction. Directed by science writer and former science publisher Jane McCredie, the festival features leading science writers, editors and publishers talking about everything from controversies in science to new platforms for engaging with audiences.

The program features over 30 speakers, including writer Tony Birch, astronomer Fred Watson, novelist James Bradley, poet Alicia Sometimes, evolutionary biologist Rob Brooks, science communicator Upulie Diviskera and many more. You’ll find out what happens when you put a playwright in a neuroscience research facility, learn how to communicate complex science to kids, and discover how sci-fi could save us all.

With a keynote speech by Nobel Prize winner Peter Doherty (listen here), Meet the Experts sessions where you can ask all your burning scientific questions, and a seminar on Writing for Scientists, Quantum Words provides a forum for writers and scientists to share expertise and inspire each other.

Tickets available here

Saturday 12 November, 10am-6pm

NSW Writers’ Centre, Callan Park, Balmain Rd, Rozelle

Members – $60, Conc. Members – $50, Non-Members – $90


Download the full program here

Pitching sessions instructions here

Book into the Writing for Scientists Workshop by emailing [email protected]

*Rochelle Fernandez has been replaced in Pitch Your Science Story Idea by Cat Sparks



Tony Birch is a renowned academic, author and educator of Aboriginal, West Indian and Irish descent. He is the author of Shadowboxing, Father’s Day, Blood (shortlisted for the Miles Franklin), The Promise and Ghost River. He is currently the inaugural Bruce McGuinness Research Fellow within the Moondani Balluk Centre at Victoria University.




James Bradley is a novelist and critic. His books include the novels Wrack, The Deep Field, The Resurrectionist and most recently Clade, a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus and The Penguin Book of the Ocean.




Rob Brooks is an evolutionary biologist who studies the evolutionary consequences of sex. His first book – Sex, Genes & Rock ‘n’ Roll: How Evolution has Shaped the Modern World - won the 2012 Queensland Literary Award for Science Writing. He also writes a regular column for The Conversation called Natural History of the Present and received the 2013 Eureka Prize for Communicating Science & Research.



Jo Chandler is a journalist, author and Editor of Best Australian Science Writing 2016. She writes about science, medicine, environment, human rights and – whenever she gets the chance – Papua New Guinea. Her work has been recognised with numerous awards, including a Walkley, a Quill, and the Bragg Prize for Science Writing (twice). For more go to www.jochandler.com.au



Craig Cormick is an award-winning author and science communicator. He has published over 25 books and his awards include a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award and the Australian Science Communicator’s Unsung Hero of Science Communication Award. He has worked for the Department of Innovation, Industry and Science, CSIRO and Questacon, has twice been included in Best Australian Science Writing and edited Ned Kelly Under the Microscope (CSIRO Publications).


Tim Dean is the Science and Technology Editor at The Conversation, and has been a science writer and editor for over 15 years. His work has appeared in print and online in numerous outlets around the world, and he has been the editor of Cosmos, Australian Life Scientist and PC & Tech Authority magazines. He also holds a doctorate in philosophy.




Upulie Divisekera is a PhD student, science communicator, science and space advocate based in Melbourne. Her multidisciplinary thesis work, carried out in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University, involves the generation of bespoke nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery and gene therapy. Over her career, Upulie has conducted research in cancer immunotherapies, apoptosis, materials science and developmental biology. Upulie is the co-founder of Real Scientists; giving scientists a platform to engage with the public real-time and provide a snapshot into the scientific life.



Peter Doherty shared the 1996 Nobel Medicine Prize with Swiss colleague Rolf Zinkernagel, for their discoveries about transplantation and “killer” T cell-mediated immunity, an understanding that is currently translating into new cancer treatments. The first veterinarian to win a Nobel, he was Australian of the Year in 1997. He is the author of A Light History of Hot Air, The Beginners Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize, Sentinel Chickens: What Birds Tell us About our Health and our World and Pandemics: What Everyone Needs to Know.



Kirsten Drysdale is a journalist, writer and presenter for ABC TV’s satirical consumer affairs program The Checkout – a show which uses humiliating costumes and bizarre props in an attempt to highlight the spurious claims and pseudoscience often found in marketing. She hosted Radio National’s consumer psychology series Talking Shop in 2014, and is also an occasional print journalist.




Jasmine Fellows has 10 years’ experience writing and editing children’s publications. She is the Editor of Double Helix, CSIRO’s magazine for kids. She also works on Science by Email and Maths by Email newsletters for a youth audience.





Elizabeth Finkel is a one-time biochemist who took up science journalism. Now the Editor in Chief of Cosmos magazine, she is the author of Stem Cells: Controversy on the Frontiers of Science, which won a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award in 2005; and of The Genome Generation published in 2012.





Cathy Foley, Deputy and Science Director of CSIRO Manufacturing, has made distinguished contributions to the understanding of superconducting materials and to the development of devices using superconductors to detect magnetic fields and locate valuable deposits of minerals. She was awarded the `Woman of the Year’ by the NSW Government in 2013 and the International IEEE Award for Continuing and Significant Contributions to Applied Superconductivity 2014. In 2015 was awarded the Clunies Ross Medal of the Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering and Australian Institute of Physics’ Outstanding Service to Physics Award.



Nicole Gill is a Tasmanian writer and invasive species management specialist, who writes on animals and the environment for both adults and children. She’s written for The Monthly, The Guardian, and Practical Poultry UK, for whom she detailed the finer points of clicker-training chickens. One of her essays features in this year’s Best Australian Science Writing, and CSIRO Publishing will release her first children’s book in early 2017.  When not gallivanting about in the great outdoors, Nicole tweets at @tasbiophiliac



Ashley Hay’s work has appeared in publications including Best Australian Essays, Best Australian Science Writing, Griffith Review, The Monthly and Creative Nonfiction. She edited Best Australian Science Writing 2014 and was the 2015 Dahl Trust/Australian Book Review Fellow. Her latest novel, The Railwayman’s Wife, was awarded the Colin Roderick Award, and the NSWPLA’s People’s Choice.




Carol Jenkins came to creative writing from a career in chemical regulation. She has two collections of poetry Fishing in the Devonian (2008) and  Xn (2013), a collection of short fiction Select Episodes from the Mr Farmhand Series, all from Puncher & Wattman. Her poems have been translated into Spanish, Chinese and French.




Ann Jones produces and presents the ABC’s natural history and environment program Off Track, which sits within Radio National’s Science Unit. These days, that means she’s actually a broadcasting, podcasting, multimedia producing, one-woman story production machine. In her deep, dark past is a PhD in History.





Bish Marzook is a scientist, writer and comedian. She writes for SBS Comedy, appears on FBi and Triple J radio, and has performed at the Sydney Comedy and National Young Writers’ Festivals. She should’ve submitted her PhD thesis in virology by the time of this event, so please congratulate or chastise her as appropriate.




Jane McCredie is a former science publisher and a writer and journalist with a special interest in science and medicine. She is the author of Making Girls and Boys: Inside the science of sex, was coeditor of The Best Australian Science Writing 2013 and is the resident blogger for the Medical Journal of Australia. She is the Executive Director of the NSW Writers’ Centre.




Mike McRae has been a writer for the CSIRO’s children’s science publications since 2008. From a career as a medical scientist in a hospital lab, Mike has since turned his focus onto communicating science to children and the general public. Mike currently works as a freelance curriculum consultant and science writer.





Natasha Mitchell is a multi-award winning ABC journalist and broadcaster. She was presenter of the daily morning program Life Matters (2012-2016) and the popular science, psychology & culture radio program, All in the Mind (2002-12), which she founded. She has served as a board member & vice president of the World Federation of Science Journalists (2009-13), and was co-editor of The Best Australian Science Writing 2013.




Bianca Nogrady is a freelance science journalist, broadcaster and author, who is yet to meet a piece of research she doesn’t find fascinating. She is author of The End: The Human Experience of Death, editor of The Best Australian Science Writing 2015, and is working on her first science fiction novel.





John Pickrell is an award-winning journalist, the author of Flying Dinosaurs and Weird Dinosaurs, and is the editor of Australian Geographic magazine. He has worked for New ScientistScience and Cosmos, and written for BBC WildlifeNational GeographicScientific American and the ABC. John has featured in The Best Australian Science Writing anthology in 2011, 2014 and 2015. He studied biology at Imperial College and has a Master of Science in taxonomy and biodiversity from London’s Natural History Museum.



Stephen Pincock is Editorial Director, Partnership and Custom Media, at Nature Research, the publisher of Nature and Scientific American. He’s the author or coauthor of three popular science books, and has spent more than 20 years as a science writer and editor. His has appeared in COSMOSNatureThe Scientist, the Financial TimesThe Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.




James Saunders is an actor and writer who has appeared extensively on stage (Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Company B Belvoir, Bell Shakespeare), on film (The Turning, Animal Kingdom) and on television (Offspring, Winners and Losers, Neighbours). His new theatre show, Fugue, is currently in development in collaboration with neuroscientists at the Florey Neuroscience Institutes, University of Melbourne and Monash University.




Michael Slezak is an award-winning science and environment reporter. He is currently at Guardian Australia, reporting on all things environment-related. Prior to that, he was the Australasian Correspondent for New Scientist magazine. Michael has a background in maths and philosophy of science.





Deborah Smith joined the UNSW Faculty of Science in late 2012 as media and communications officer following a distinguished career in journalism with Fairfax Media. She was Science Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald from 2002 to 2012, and held other positions including European correspondent, senior feature writer, and page editor. Deborah was a finalist in the Eureka Prize for Science Journalism in 2002 and 2004 and won the award in 2005.




Alicia Sometimes is a writer, poet and broadcaster. She is a regular guest on ABC 774 and Radio National. Alicia was a 2014 Fellow at the State Library of Victoria and writer and director of the science-poetry show, Elemental that toured around the world. She is currently working on a new show on particle physics.





Cat Sparks is a multi-award-winning author, editor and artist, former Manager of Agog! Press and Fiction Editor of Cosmos magazine. She’s currently finishing a PhD in climate change fiction. Her debut novel, Lotus Blue, to be published by Talos Press in 2017, is described as “Mad Max meets Terminator meets Ghost in the Shell.”




Marcus Strom is the science editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Britain and Australia. At the Herald his roles have included deputy foreign editor and morning news director. Marcus accidentally became a journalist after completing a science degree at the University of Sydney.




Fred Watson has been an astronomer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory since 1995. He is a graduate of the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews, and today holds adjunct positions at several Australian universities. Fred is best known for his radio and TV broadcasts, talks, and other outreach programs, which earned him the 2006 Australian Government Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science. He has also written a number of award-winning books, and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2010. Fred has an asteroid named after him (5691 Fredwatson), but says that if it hits the Earth, it won’t be his fault.



Jonathan Webb is the brand new content director for science at ABC RN, freshly arrived from London where he was a science reporter for BBC News. He’s also a lapsed neuroscientist and a frustrated actor, who loves all kinds of science and nearly all kinds of writing.





Jessica White is the author of A Curious Intimacy and Entitlement. Her short stories, essays and poems have appeared widely in Australian literary journals and she has won funding, residencies and numerous awards. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at The University of Queensland, where she is writing an ecobiography of nineteenth-century botanist Georgiana Molloy. Jessica’s website is www.jessicawhite.com.au.



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