National Science Week: Shirty Science

EQUS, along with four other Centres of Excellence, participated in this year’s Shirty Science ( and then battled it out for the prize of Most Excellent Science Shirt in an online event on 15 August.  EQUS’ representative for this initiative was Associate Investigator and Public Engagement Portfolio Co-chair Dr Ben McAllister.

After a speed-networking event for the researchers and artists, Ben was paired with traditional illustrator Gillian Bowen-Johnston.  Gill was inspired to illustrate the transition between the classical and quantum worlds.  Together, they wanted to communicate that the quantum scale is not magic, it just doesn’t follow the classical rules we are used to—“it’s not magic, just minute”.

For Gill, this inspiration began with the centrepiece of the illustration, the dilution refrigerator.  Around it, Gill represented two main concepts in quantum mechanics: quantum entanglement, illustrated by the electrons at the top and bottom of the artwork, and wave–particle duality, illustrated in the tides of colour and resulting interference patterns flowing from the plates of the fridge.

The Most Excellent Science Shirt event

Ben said it was interesting to think about how best to represent the wide range of research done at EQUS in a single design.  “Given Gill’s artistic style, we first discussed the idea of an old-school botanical illustration of a dil fridge, but it quickly became clear that wouldn’t work on a shirt,” he said.  “Gill asked so many questions to ensure she could represent the science accurately.  Her ultimate mantra (‘it’s not magic, just minute’) I think is a really good message for the public about quantum science and technology, and I’m really happy with how the shirt turned out.”

During the online Most Excellent Science Shirt event, Ben and Gill pitched their shirt as the best to a panel of four judges and the online audience.  Unfortunately, the EQUS team didn’t win, but it was clear host Nate Byrne (weather present for ABC News Breakfast) liked ours the best (see for proof)!

By complete coincidence, Gill’s husband Adam recognised the EQUS logo on the back of Abhishek’s hoodie while the road trip team had stopped for lunch in a bakery in Apollo Bay.  He was thrilled to meet more EQUS researchers and said how much Gill had enjoyed working on the project and with Ben.  He said they’d both enjoyed learning about quantum, and Gill in particular was thrilled to have been assigned to work with Ben and quantum, as she’d learned so much.  What great feedback!


Left: Ben and Gill wearing their shirt.  Right: Road-trippers with Gill’s husband Adam in Apollo Bay

Shirty Science—an initiative founded by Madi Hartill-Law, a science communicator and advocate for gender equity in STEM—matches scientists with artists to design conversation-starting shirts.  Unlike the other Centres, EQUS chose to create a shirt that captures EQUS as a whole, rather than the work of an individual researcher.

You can buy your own EQUS Shirty Science shirt at  To watch the Most Excellence Science Shirt event, visit

Major funding support

Australian Research Council

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present.