Case Study: Building diversity in semiconductor physics

Event: International Conference on the Physics of Semiconductors 2022
Dates: 27 – 30 June 2022
Venue: International Convention Centre, Sydney


COVID-19 led to the postponement of the biennial International Conference on the Physics of Semiconductors (ICPS) in 2020, meaning the 2022 event in Sydney would mark four years since delegates would meet in person.
Despite the pandemic and other international events impacting travel, it was an ideal time for the conference to be held in Australia due to local advancements in the field. A world-first breakthrough in quantum computing, led by ICPS co-chair Professor Michelle Simmons AO, was announced just days ahead of the conference taking place.


To build interest in semiconductor physics research and careers, the organising committee understood it needed to increase the participation of women and students in what was traditionally a male-dominated field. This would require a commitment to prioritise diversity throughout the conference and introduce new initiatives to increase the profile and presence of women and students.


The Organising Committee implemented the following solutions and initiatives:

  • Women accounted for 50% of the Organising Committee, with 2018 Australian of the Year, Professor Michelle Simmons as Honorary Chair.
  • The Organising Committee considered gender diversity when developing the program and inviting speakers, aiming for an even ratio of men and women.
  • Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Catherine Foley, opened the conference and joined an Equity and Diversity panel focusing on solutions to make the semiconductor physics community more inclusive.
  • A Women in Science and Technology Breakfast gave women in the science and technology field an opportunity to network and share advice for success.
  • The conference was promoted at local universities to encourage attendance among students and early career researchers. Registration options included a student rate for the entire conference and a day-only rate to make the conference more affordable for this target audience.
  • Grants were offered to students to attend via an oral abstract presentation selection process. The conference offered poster presentations to those that did not meet oral presentation criteria, ensuring greater opportunities to participate in the program.
  • A Next Generation Science session, which brought together the collective resources of universities and industry partners, delivered a highly engaging outreach program for local secondary students. The students were able to meet international Nobel Laureate Klaus von Klitzing and other experts to hear what a career in science could offer.
  • A panel of scientific editors from prime international journals shared their expertise in handling manuscripts and provided tips on how attendees could get their manuscripts published.


Despite challenges with international travel, ICPS attracted strong interest from the community with over 400 delegates representing 29 countries.

In relation to improving the participation of women and students, the above initiatives resulted in the following outcomes:

  • 47% of the plenary speakers and 33% of the invited speakers were female. Challenges leading up to the conference resulted in many oral presentation withdrawals which altered the male and female speaker ratio.
  • Marketing to local university students resulted in 140 registrations from people aged 30 and under. An overall target of 30% student registrations was exceeded.
  • The Next Generation Science session for secondary students attracted 50 in-person attendees and 73 virtual attendees ultimately increasing the accessibility of the conference.