Associate Professor Raffaella Demichelis leads an emerging team doing research in computational materials chemistry and geochemistry at Curtin University. Her research spans from the study of materials structure to crystal growth and mineral surface reactivity via developing classical, quantum mechanical, and semi-empirical models. She led landmark research that proves a new and more comprehensive theory explaining how minerals form in aqueous solutions, and solved the problems related to understanding how atoms arrange into a number of mineral structures. Raffaella also contributes to develop software and models that are used in academic and non-academic laboratories conducting research in chemistry, materials science, and earth science worldwide.
Originally from Italy, Raffaella has made Western Australia her home for more than 10 years. Aside from her research, she spreads her enthusiasm for science through engaging with outreach and community building activities, and is an active advocate for change in our national research system through leading local and national groups and initiatives. Since 2021 Raffaella has been an Executive member of the Australian Academy of Science’s Early- and Mid-Career (EMCR) Forum, which she chaired in 2022. She co-founded networks in WA aimed to teach software skills to PhD students (through the Software Carpentry project, now under the leadership of the Curtin Institute for Computation) and to grow support and allyship in the chemistry community (the WA Women in Chemistry group, under the auspices of the Royal Australian Chemical Society). She also volunteers much of her time to visit schools and mentor kids to possible STEM career paths with the double purpose of also showcasing gender diversity in STEM.
As a culturally and linguistically diverse woman in STEM with caring responsibilities who has gone through significant and extended career breaks due to maternity, health reasons and part time work, she has faced numerous barriers to career progression and is using her experience to advocate for a mentally safe, flexible and inclusive research environment, allowing for sustainable and diverse career paths.
Raffaella has received national and international recognition for her research and community engagement through being a 2020 WA Young Tall Poppy awardee and the recipient of the 2015 Caglioti prize (Italian Academy of Science), the 2022 F.G. Houtermans Award (European Association of Geochemistry), and the 2023 Dorothy Hill Medal (Australian Academy of Science).