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Monday 4 January 2021

Aussie STEM Stars: Fiona Wood, Inventor of Spray-On Skin.

This is a well-written piece of non-fiction that is as compelling a read as any fiction.

It captures the reader from the start, as Fiona Wood's strong personality and humor immediately burst from the page. 

Fiona Wood is a beautiful example of the power of sticking to your dreams and never taking ‘no’ for an answer, despite the odds against you.

Born into a poor mining family in a village in Yorkshire, where the opportunity for further education for girls was very limited, Fiona’s family encouraged all of their children to work as hard as they could and take advantage of any chance to better themselves.

In fact, a government decision in the early 60s to change the catchments for schools in their local area resulted in Fiona and her sister having no school to provide them with an education beyond Year 10. 

When their mother wrote to the government to point out the unfairness of this, a bureaucrat wrote back to say that he did not believe that these girls were university material.


But the sisters were very fortunate! Their mother got a job at a local private school and the girls could therefore enroll at heavily discounted prices. It makes me sad to think of all the other village girls who would have missed out on completing their high school education.

Once there, Fiona worked hard and played hard. She excelled both academically and on the sports ground. Her initial dream was to become an Olympic sprinter. And although she worked very hard at running she did not achieve that particular ambition.

Which is just as well! The world’s burns victims are probably grateful for this. Not only did Fiona end up going to university, she was accepted into a prestigious medical college where, in her usual way, she threw herself into her studies, determined to be the very best she could be.

On the way she fell in love with a fellow doctor and they migrated to Australia. Despite being told that women with families could not be surgeons, Fiona proved them wrong and not only worked as a surgeon, she developed a passion for helping burns victims and led the field in breakthrough research. 

Her compassion for burns victims combined with her never-give-up mentality resulted in her making huge advances in the area of skin grafting. She was determined to reduce the time required to grow usable skin from the patient’s own cells, until she reduced the time from months to a few days. Her innovations led to the invention of spray-on skin. This saved hundreds of lives, including those of the Bali bombing victims.

Overall, a compelling and fascinating read.

Teachers’ notes are available.

Title: Aussie STEM Stars: Fiona Wood
Author: Cristy Burne
Publisher: Wild Dingo Press, $14.95
Publication Date: October, 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781925893281
For ages: 8-12
Type: Junior Non-Fiction