5 mins read 17 Oct 2022

Women of the Australian Space Community: Isabella McCulloch

Women play a huge role in the Australian space sector, and each week will be sharing the story of an inspiring woman who makes our community so special. 

Isabella McCulloch - Astrophysicist and Space Communicator, Australian Space Agency. Credit: Supplied.

In March each year, we not only celebrate International Women’s Day but we also enjoy learning about all the contributions women have made to society during Women’s History Month. Initially started in the US in 1987, it has in recent times, in part due to social media, become more well-known across the world. 

As a celebration of all the wonderful work, inspiration and support that women across our region do in the space sector, will be speaking to a new women in the Australian space community weekly, to uncover their stories and find out who inspires them.  

Isabella McCulloch - Astrophysicist and Space Communicator, Australian Space Agency

What is your role?

I’m an astrophysicist with a passion for project management and start-ups. At the moment I am a Space Communicator at the Australian Space Discovery Centre where I have the opportunity to talk about Australia’s rich space history and the future of our space industry. 

Also, have the privilege of sharing opportunities with those wanting to find a way into our space sector. I was Stone & Chalk’s first Space Intern and was promoted to Space Community Coordinator. This role gave me the chance to further my outreach and bring together Australia’s space sector through hosting events and helping operate Stone & Chalk’s space hub. 

I am also excited to start a new role at Deloitte, under the GRAVITY Challenge as a Stakeholder Engagement Consultant, so what this has in store only future me knows

How did you end up working in the space sector and what drew you to it?

I remember always being fascinated by space. Since I was a child, I both loved and was terrified by it. Thus, this passion for astronomy and physics stayed with me throughout high school, leading me to Adelaide University to complete a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Space Science and Astrophysics. 

I originally intended to follow a research path but quickly discovered that this was not what I wanted to do. In 2017 I went to the IAC and was in awe and then in 2018, the Australian Space Agency was established. Things kept on happening in our space sector, so I just knew it was worth pursuing Australia's accelerating space industry.

What advice would you give to people looking to start their career in the Australian space Industry, whether they are new graduates or those looking to move their careers over?

Network and volunteer! I can’t stress how many amazing people I met and the opportunities I found just through volunteering. Also, attending events like Hackathons, exchanges and networking nights opens even more doors. Not only do you meet people from an array of backgrounds all with similar passions, but you learn new skills and can leverage such in future. 

Fleet Space Technologies CEO, Flavia Tata Nardini. Credit: Fleet Space Technologies.

Who have you met that has had the most impact on your career journey so far?

Flavia Tata Nardini – CEO and Co-Founder of Fleet Space Technologies. A family friend one day handed me a newspaper in 2016/17. It had Flavia on the front page – An Italian female engineer, the CEO of her own space company and she lives here in Adelaide. I was so excited when I heard this and was even more excited to have met her at the 2017 IAC. Since then, I’m always excited to learn about this company and what they had planned for South Australia. Having followed her story and Fleet’s growth, it’s inspiring.   

What has been the most interesting discovery or the most interesting space-related project you have worked on or been part of?

The most interesting project I’ve worked on would have had to have been my Honours. My Honours was under Adelaide University’s Professional Science Honours stream, mine specifically in Science Innovation. 

My project focused on Australia’s space start-up ecosystem and thus introduced me to an array of industry professionals working towards accelerating Australia’s space sector and space technologies. 

What has been the highlight of your career so far or what are you looking forward to most in the future?

I can’t exactly choose a highlight but because of being in Australia’s space sector, I’ve been able to do many things I’d never thought I’d ever do! I’ve had the opportunity to be a guest speaker on panels, host national events, work for amazing companies, be on advertisements and so much more! To date, I’m really looking forward to taking my next leap into Australia’s space industry with Deloitte and working under the GRAVITY Challenge.