Art, visualisation and the cosmos in education

5–6 December 2019
Deakin Downtown

Event details

The combination of perspectives from art and science are increasingly acknowledged as powerful approaches to both fields, and to education and public outreach. These interdisciplinary innovations reflect new understandings of the role of visualisation in science knowledge building and learning.

This symposium aims to bring together a heterogenous group of researchers, scientists, teachers, artists and educators from around the world to discuss ideas and practical applications of combining art and science through representation and modelling, visualisation, big data, and virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), both in traditional classrooms and informal learning settings such as planetariums.


Registration fees include catering on both days.

General admission: $100 per person

Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students: $65 per person

Keynote speakers

Julia Plummer

Julia Plummer is an Associate Professor of Science Education at Penn State College of Education. She received a combined PhD in Astronomy & Education from the University of Michigan, and has spent more than a decade teaching children and adults in planetariums and other informal settings. Her research interests focus on the design of learning environments that support children's spatial thinking and science practices in the domain of astronomy. This includes investigating both formal environments, such as classrooms, and informal environments, such as planetariums and museums.

Julia's research has led to the development of astronomy learning progressions focused on explaining celestial motion phenomena and connecting observations of the current solar system to its formation model. She has co-authored middle school astronomy curricula and collaborated on the development of planetarium programs for children, and she continues to teach college-level introductory astronomy and science methods for preservice elementary teachers.

Urban Eriksson

Urban Eriksson is an Associate Professor in physics, specialising in astronomy education research (AER) at Lund University, Sweden, and Director for the National Resource Centre for Physics Education. He has a background in astrometry and extensive experience in AER – teaching astronomy at university level for over 20 years.

He was recently appointed chair for the International Astronomical Union (IAU) working group for Astronomy Education Research and Methods. His research revolves around novice and experts learning astronomy via disciplinary discernment from semiotic resources used in the discipline of astronomy, including extrapolating three-dimensionality from 1D and 2D resources, such as astronomical imagery and simulations presented on flat screens, planetarium and in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Travis Rector

Travis Rector is a professor of astronomy at University of Alaska Anchorage. For the last twenty years his work in education research has focused on the benefits of students engaging in authentic research experiences in a classroom setting. He is currently working with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Education and Public Outreach group (LSST EPO) to develop ways that students can engage in astronomy with LSST data products.

Dr Rector is also known for his work on creating colour-composite images. Using data from some of the world's most powerful telescopes, including Hubble, Kitt Peak, and Gemini, he has made many iconic astronomical images that you will likely recognise. With co-authors Kim Arcand and Megan Watzke, he recently wrote a book called 'Colouring the Universe', which explains how these images are made, including the artistic and aesthetic decisions that are part of the process.

Felicity Spear

Felicity Spear developed a career as a practising and exhibiting visual artist after initially training as a secondary teacher. In 2007 she completed a PhD at Monash University with a practice led research project titled Extending vision: mapping space in light and time. Working with a range of media Spear's art practice references the manipulation of optical phenomena, light, data and image capture, the processes of mapping and the influences of history. She focuses on the way we observe the physical world over time, both the human and non-human, in order to generate models which emphasize their value and complexity. During the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, Spear was included in the National Gallery of Victoria exhibition Shared Sky. She also curated the exhibition Beyond Visibility: light and dust, with pioneering astro-photographer David Malin, and celebrated indigenous artist Gulumbu Yunupingu, which took place at Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne and University of Technology Gallery, Sydney. Spear then developed the first of the Sky Lab series of which there were five iterations, from 2009 to 2016, including both local and international artists, at private and public regional Victorian and Melbourne galleries.

Spear’s recent solo exhibitions include The Observatory 2013, Orbit 2016 and Umwelten – eco-fields and other universes 2019. Extending her interest in the way in which we attempt to visualize, imagine or decode humans’ interaction with the physical world, Spear curated the group exhibitions Future Tense 2014, Fossil- a slow acting violence 2017, and Parallel Universe 2019 at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery Melbourne. In 2019 she was included in two exhibitions in public regional galleries commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing and the first human steps taken on its surface. The Moon at the Geelong Gallery, and Space at the Gippsland Art Gallery.

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Key information

Date and time

Thursday 5 December–Friday 6 December 2019


Deakin Downtown
Level 12, Tower 2, Collins Square
727 Collins Street, 
Docklands VIC 3008