A day in the life of science superhero Dr Michelle Dickinson (a.k.a. Nanogirl)

Dr Michelle Dickinson standing on rocks with her pet Dalmatian Noodle

Dr Michelle Dickinson, known as Nanogirl, snatches the odd afternoon to go kitesurfing, but her passion for getting young people excited about science and maths is all-consuming.

I get up at 5.30am… and the first thing I do is take Noodle, our Dalmatian, for a walk around the city. Making time for myself to plan the day ahead and enjoy some quiet reflective time is really important.

Breakfast is usually… fresh fruit salad and tea or coffee.

My first look at my phone is… to check my family messaging chat app. As my mum and brother live in the UK, there is usually a baby update about my new nephew, who I haven’t met yet due to Covid. Then it’s onto the world news – and, of course, the latest science research developments.

My morning is spent… with our learning design team at Nanogirl Labs. Most of our major project meetings are in the morning, so it’s straight into the big conversations.

Lunchtime nearly always means… a quick low-carb meal, usually on the run. I love to eat locally grown produce that is in season, so right now that means grilled asparagus with brightly coloured capsicum topped with tofu and nuts.

By 2pm, I’m usually… either focusing on developing new projects and initiatives to engage more young people in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) or I’m on my way to a school to run our Nanogirl science teacher-training programme, helping primary and intermediate school teachers to build their students’ confidence in science.

Most days… I’ll get the chance to do something that really makes a difference for someone through our work, and I love that.

Some days… I’m kitesurfing. When it’s windy and when I can step away for the afternoon (the trials of running your own business!), I’ll nip out to one of our local beaches, pump up my kite and spend a couple of hours riding the waves.

At 5pm I’ll be… winding down from the day and getting ready to catch up with our UK team at the start of their day.

I like to spend my evenings… having friends over for a quiet dinner – I’m really lucky that a lot of my friends also run mission-driven businesses, so we get to swap notes on how to help make positive change together.

But sometimes… I’ll head out to an event. I try to minimise how many evening events I go to, but I still probably average three a week.

I’m in bed by… 10.30pm. I like to spend time just winding down and reflecting on the day.

My bedtime routine is… pretty straightforward – I brush my teeth thoroughly (my PhD was all about the benefits of brushing with a good fluoride toothpaste), then I wind down with a great book (usually a biography).

My Dalmatian, Noodle… is around all day – he comes to work with me. Noodle is just the best, I don’t know what I’d do without him.

The one thing I would like to change… about my daytime routine is to find more time to stop and think deeply. It has been a crazy year – just non-stop, especially at work – and while I work to carve out time, I’d really value the opportunity for more quiet reflection. That’s usually where I have my best ideas.


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