The astrophysicist, author and broadcaster draws on her own girlhood dreams to inspire youngsters.
“I was very young when I discovered I loved astronomy,” she says.
“I read about the history of the subject and I thought about the great discoveries made in the past and wanted to be a part of the discoveries of the future.
“It was such an imaginative and creative career - I thought it would be a great thing to be part of.”
And in a time when, according to one popular estimate, 65 per cent of today’s schoolchildren will eventually work in jobs that do not yet even exist, picking the right area of study is crucial.
“It’s important that every young person really tries to see a problem that they want to solve, a challenge they would like to be a part of - whether it’s renewable energy, whether it’s helping wildlife, whether it’s astrophysics and the problems of the universe. These are all great questions and challenges which can really grip you for the whole of your life the whole of your career.
“Being part of that wonderful journey of science and technology is something that is very exciting.
“Astrophysics is the study of the entire universe -- this is not just something small; this is the whole history of everything and women have an amazing place in the history of the study of cosmology and astronomy, and it’s such a rewarding career.”
And STEM makes financial sense as well, she says.
“Our economy is moving from a resources-based to a more STEM-skill based economy, so we really need a lot more people who understand those problems and there are going to be a lot more jobs that require these skills.
“It's really important for girls to get great jobs where they can dig into these problems and challenges and to get these skills at school.”
The challenges of course are the lack of female role models in STEM – hence Harvey-Smith’s continuing nationwide roadshow.
“A lot of young girls see many more male role models in STEM - a lot of science books in schools have male examples and even in fiction books have male characters who are engineers and scientists.
“It can be hard to see a future for yourself in STEM if it’s all nerdy boys - that’s not the truth; that’s a stereotype and we need to break those stereotypes and we need to show amazing examples of female role models in STEM, and that’s why I’m supporting the 'Superstars of Stem Initiative, to get the message out that STEM is for everyone.”
Don't miss the brand new season with Neil deGrasse Tyson 'Cosmos: Possible Worlds' Starts 8.30pm March 9 on National Geographic.
Lead image: Provided by Lisa Harvey Smith.