Top 5 under 40: Dr Sophie Calabretto

Top 5 under 40: Dr Sophie Calabretto

Using maths to understand
flight and climate change

Sophie CalabrettoDr Sophie Calabretto is developing the maths that will help designers build more efficient aircraft and climate scientists develop the next generation of global climate models.

She’ll be explaining this work as one of the ABC’s ‘Top 5 under 40’ science communicators for 2017.

“In order to build more efficient aircraft, designers must first understand the complex behaviour of air as it moves and flows over the aircraft body,” says Sophie.

Her research looks at the behaviour of rotating fluids – in the case of an aircraft, air – and how to better understand and predict it.

For example, when air separates from the surface of an aircraft wing and turns into a mass of rotating air, that can have serious consequences for the control of the aircraft.

Understanding how fluids behave will also help us better understand our oceans and global weather patterns.

“Ocean currents transport not only water, but also heat and gases around the Earth. The heat, and gases like carbon dioxide, play an important role in shaping the weather patterns we experience every day,” says Sophie.

“If we could understand exactly how ocean currents behave, we could better understand the important issues associated with changing weather patterns, such as climate change and how we can predict it.”

The Top 5 under 40 award, run by the ABC and the University of New South Wales, recognises five outstanding early-career researchers who have a flair and passion for communicating their work.

“I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to be involved in such an important initiative,” says Sophie.

“The number of women studying higher mathematics in this country is declining rapidly, and this is the mathematics that will prepare people for the jobs of the future.

“I hope that seeing a woman pursuing (and enjoying) a career in applied mathematics can help break the stigma that exists for young women in STEM.”

As part of the award Sophie will spend two weeks as a scientist-in-residence at ABC RN, working alongside some of Australia’s best science journalists to learn how to better craft stories and create content for a general public audience.

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