Introducing Imaginarium facilitator Dr Ellen Fortini


Dr Ellen Fortini is an incredible educator with a passion for learning and we are lucky enough to have her as a facilitator for the upcoming Explorology school holiday course.

“The world is huge, and the universe even bigger,” Ellen said, as she pondered the opportunities students have to explore their curiosity through Imaginarium.

“There are so many secrets out there just waiting to be discovered.”

Ellen says her strongest character strength is gratitude. She spends most of her day considering how grateful she is to be doing what she does – from learning something new to having interesting conversations with students. She also highlights her love of learning – from her many years of study (particularly in microbiology), to being challenged, and finding out new things about the world.

Learning about Ellen’s interesting experiences while completing her PhD in molecular biology, I hear further character strengths that are key to scientific investigations and research with perseverance, resilience and hope at the forefront.

“This experience was painful at the time but it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me and has really taught me a lot,” Ellen said.

“There was one experiment I had been planning for more than a year. I had to learn a heap of new skills in order to make the experiment work, and it took a lot of time to get there.

“I remember the day when I was finally ready to do the experiment – I had completed lots of small practices and was all set to conduct the real experiment and finally find out some interesting things.

“I got to the lab to start the experiment at 6.00 am and I was the only one there. I was working on it all day and into the night, bit by bit, working towards the end of the experiment when I would finally see the result.

“It was 1.00 am, more than 17 hours later, and the big moment had arrived. The moment of truth! Finally, after a year and 17 hours of work that day, I anxiously looked at these final results and they were not what I expected to see.

“I was devastated. I was tired. I didn’t know what I had done wrong. I thought I was back at square one. I went home that night so disappointed.

“But you know what happened? I came back the next day, looked at it with fresh eyes and realised that it still wasn’t what I expected to see – it was so much better. It was a completely surprising result that we had never anticipated.

“It turned out to be an awesome new discovery that taught me one of the best lessons of my life: to sleep on it. Everything looks better in the morning, and sometimes things don’t turn out the way you expect – they turn out much better and take you on a completely new and exciting journey.”

In her spare time, Ellen loves to read all kinds of books from fiction to science, and enjoys spending time with her big Italian family. You can find her at the beach every weekend during summer, and if you ask any of her friends how they would describe her, Ellen said: “Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with the colour purple.”

Ellen will facilitate the Explorology course where girls will learn new things about our planet, and the wider universe, through the Extremophiles.

“The reality is, these are the girls who will be the ones to go out there and explore the universe and other plenty to uncover the secrets that lie out there,” Ellen said.

How can we build on these ideas and explore the possibilities through virtual simulation? How can we utilise robotics equipment to consider new possibilities? I wonder…