Posted in authors, interviews

Kim Doherty on Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist: 2016–2020

MEET THE AUTHOR

Kim Doherty is an editor, storyteller, teacher, and a mum to two young children, who she hopes will be inspired by the amazing world of science and Alan’s story. Today we’re thrilled to chat to her about her new book, a biography in the Aussie STEM Stars series – Alan Finkel.

From the publisher:

As Australia’s Chief Scientest, our country turned to Alan Finkel for advice on everything from climate change to artificial intelligence, to the pandemic. But at a time when scientists have never been so important, Alan nearly didn’t become one at all!


How did you go about your research for writing about Alan Finkel? 

I did a LOT of reading. It’s lucky that I love reading as well as writing, as there is so much to read about Alan – he’s always busy doing something interesting. I read all the speeches he’s ever given (and that is no small feat – there are hundreds) and a lot of his scientific papers. I confess, some of the papers were a bit too complicated for me to understand, but I did my best. I spent a lot of time interviewing Alan of course, but I also chatted to his colleagues, his friends and his family (his sister had lots of funny stories to tell. It’s a good reason to always be nice to your sister – you never know who she’ll talk to about you in the future!)

Did you meet Alan Finkel while you were writing the book?

Alan and I had grand plans to have lunch together in Melbourne, where we both grew up. Then he was so busy that we changed it to Canberra, where his office was as Chief Scientist of Australia. Then he was due to give a speech in Sydney, where I now live … but then something got in the way: Covid-19. There was no way of travelling or meeting face to face during the pandemic, so we did all our chatting on zoom. Which I have to say was fun! It was like being teleported straight into his living room in Melbourne, without ever having to walk out my own front door in Sydney. (And once, I was still secretly wearing my slippers. Ssshh!).

As Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel worked in many different areas of science – technology, biology, science education, the pandemic, climate change – and in the book we learn that perhaps his greatest passion is taking care of our planet. Which area of STEM do you find most interesting?

Oh I love all of it, I wish I’d studied more science at school. Alan is always fascinating to talk to, but perhaps my favourite of the many STEM topics we chatted about was how science can help look after our planet. For example, Alan believes that clean hydrogen can power our vehicles instead of dirty fossil fuels, and it turns out that Australia is a great place to produce hydrogen. You can make hydrogen from water, and instead of emitting nasty greenhouse gases, its only byproduct is water vapour! It’s exciting to think that, thanks to our scientists, Australia could play an important role in looking after our beautiful planet.

In addition to this biography about Alan Finkel you’ve also written a book for children about Mt Everest. Do you have a tip for children who’d like to write nonfiction?

Hmm, I’m sure your clever readers would think of this themselves but my advice is this: find a topic you’re really interested in, because it’s a lot more fun to read and write about a subject you love. It doesn’t mean you have to know a lot about it when you start, but you need to be ready to read a lot first, and then talk to people who know a lot, before you even start to write yourself. If you’ve really worked hard on the research, the writing bit is easy and fun. Go on, give it a try!

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on next?

To be honest, I am still trying to work it out. I love writing about amazing people, and there are so many of them in Australia – scientists of course, but also people from all walks of life who are doing wonderful, brave things. It’s an honour to tell those stories, so thank you for reading them. I hope they inspire you too.


Alan Finkel is out now! Ask for it at your favourite book store or local library.

Take a sneak peek inside the book

Image shows the cover of a biography about Alan Finkel written for children. The title is Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist: 2016 - 2020. Story told by Kim Doherty. Text at the top of the book's cover says Aussie STEM Stars. The cover is predominantly dark blue and shows an illustration of Alan Finkel. Alan has short grey hair and is wearing a pale blue collared-shirt with a maroon tie and a dark grey suit jacket. He has fair skin and dark blue eyes. Other symbols on the cover include sketches of a human brain, a computer chip, and a lightbulb (the last of which is shining brightly, yellow).
Posted in book reviews, Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Kobe

Book review: Fiona Wood, inventor of spray-on skin

Fiona Wood Inventor of Spray-On Skin by Cristy BurneREVIEWED BY KOBE, 9, WA

Fiona Wood: Inventor of Spray-on Skin, story by Cristy Burne, Wild Dingo Press, ISBN 9781925893281

The publisher provided a review copy of this book. 

Smart children will like this book! This is a true story about a famous scientist named Fiona Wood. This book will tell you how Fiona became a great scientist. This story talks about the childhood of Fiona. Like all people, she didn’t get to be a scientist straight away. She had to work hard to be one.

In this fabulous story, Fiona defends the weak ones and fixes the broken ones to fight for her chance to study medicine. The story of the plastic surgeon and spray on-skin inventor, Fiona Wood shows us the value of dreams, hard work and having the courage to do what’s right. This is the inspiring story of spirit and stamina, generosity and courage.

My favourite part about this story is that Fiona works hard on a study and she doesn’t give up because it reminds me that even if I have a bit of trouble with my sport in school, I don’t start giving up. I still haven’t given up yet!

I hope you will read this marvellous book and that you’ll enjoy it! If you think this book is marvellous, have a try book reviewing too! Now what are you waiting for? Go read this outstanding book! I hope you enjoy this book!


Kobe is a regular book reviewer for Alphabet Soup. You can read all her reviews hereTo send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Posted in authors, interviews

Cristy Burne and Fiona Wood: Inventor of Spray-on Skin

Cristy BurneMEET THE AUTHOR

Cristy Burne writes fiction and nonfiction and her books are bursting with adventure, friendship, family, nature, science and technology. Cristy has worked as a science communicator for nearly 20 years across six countries. She has been a science circus performer, garbage analyst, museum writer, and atom-smashing reporter at CERN, but her all-time favourite job is working with kids to embrace the intersection between science, technology and creativity.

Cristy’s latest book is the first book in the new Aussie STEM Stars series – Fiona Wood: Inventor of spray-on skin. 

Fiona Wood Inventor of Spray-On Skin by Cristy Burne

From the publisher:

With her invention of the revolutionary spray-on skin, Fiona Wood changed the way burns were treated forever. 

Fiona’s story is one of hard work and hope, of vision and direction, of stepping up, not giving in, and helping people rebuild their bodies and their lives.

Now – on with some questions about the book!


You’re a science writer, children’s author and presenter. Do you have a favourite subject area when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM)?
My favourite part of STEM is creativity. Every single scientific breakthrough or invention or innovation ever in the whole history of the planet is the direct result of creativity. Our world is a better place because someone imagined a solution to a problem, because someone dared to dream of a new way. So being a scientist is all about being creative.

And science is all about making a difference in our world… solving mysteries, discovering knowledge, inventing fresh ways of doing things. It’s EXCITING, and we can all be part of it.

Your latest book is part of Aussie STEM Stars – a new series for kids celebrating Australia’s experts in Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths. How did you come to write about Fiona Wood?
I was very lucky to be asked to write this book about Fiona Wood, which is just an incredible honour.

I’d interacted with Fiona twice before: I’d seen her speak at a conference and LOVED her energy and passion immediately. Years later, I contacted her for an article I was writing for Double Helix magazine about The Great Unknown … I wanted to know what Fiona’s ‘Great Unknown’ was. I didn’t expect someone as busy as Fiona to answer, but she did, and once again I was overwhelmed by how generous she is, and how much good she does for the world. (She said she had many ‘Great Unknowns’ and finding answers to her questions is what drives her every day.)

So the chance to work with Fiona, to learn more about her, to share her incredible story with the world … it was one I just couldn’t pass up. I’m still pinching myself.

If I could have chosen any living scientist to write about, I would have chosen Fiona Wood. It’s such a huge responsibility to write someone else’s life. I totally recommend that you read this book … and your parents too. And your grandparents. And your teacher. I want to shout FIONA IS AMAZING to the rooftops.

How did you go about your research for writing the book?
I started by trawling the internet for all the pre-existing interviews, videos, articles and book chapters that featured Fiona. I listened to hours of radio, watched loads of YouTube, ordered books featuring great Australians, and read everything I could get my hands on.

I had 15,000 words of research before I started writing a thing. Fiona is SO busy doing incredibly vital research and life-changing work, I didn’t want to waste a minute of her time by asking questions she’d already answered in a zillion other interviews.

Also, because I had prepared, when it came time to chat with Fiona, I could focus on more personal questions, or ask about details I needed to bring a particular story to life. I then divided and ordered all that research chronologically and thematically to see if any story structure naturally appeared.

Do you have one tip for kids who’d like to write nonfiction?
Writing non-fiction is incredibly fun! Find something you’re interested in, and learn as much as you can about it. What a great job! My big tip is: don’t be afraid to ring or email someone to ask them for information or an interview. Getting your facts directly from an expert adds so much to your work. And most people, even busy people, are happy to help. (And most scientists, even busy scientists, are passionate about their work, so they love to share it!)

What’s your next writing project? 
I’m putting the finishing touches on a chapter book adventure called Beneath The Trees, which is based on the true story of an epically awful hike my family and I did in the Queensland rainforest … it was an incredible adventure, complete with blood and tears and mud and really cute platypus. Perfect for reading while cuddled in bed!

Fiona Stanley: Inventor of spray-on skin is out now! Ask for it at your nearest bookshop or library. 


Fiona Wood Inventor of Spray-On Skin by Cristy BurneAWESOME EXTRAS:

Click here to download Teacher’s Notes for the book. 

Visit Cristy Burne’s website for more about her, her books and presentations.

Hear Cristy Burne read an excerpt from the book.

Read an earlier interview with Cristy Burne