Michelle Dickinson

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Michelle Dickinson

Michelle Dickinson-crop-sep-2015.jpg
Other namesNanogirl
CitizenshipNew Zealand/UK
Alma materBiomedical Engineering and Ceramic and Materials Science and Engineering, Rutgers University
Awards Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, Blake Medal
Scientific career
Fields nanotechnology, science education
Institutions University of Auckland
Thesis Surface variations affecting human dental enamel studied using nanomechanical and chemical analysis  (2005)
Website www.medickinson.com

Michelle Emma Dickinson MNZM , also known as Nanogirl, is a nanotechnologist and science educator based in New Zealand.


Early life and education

Dickinson grew up in Hong Kong, the USA, and the United Kingdom. [1] She had a grandmother from Malta, a grandfather who was English, and a Hong Kong Chinese mother. This may have heightened her awareness of cultural differences. [2] Her father was an English-Maltese soldier. [3]

She displayed skills in computer coding by the time she was eight years old. [4] [2] Dickinson completed a Masters' in Engineering at the University of Manchester and a PhD in Biomedical Materials Engineering at Rutgers University. [1] [2]

Professional life

Dickinson set up and runs New Zealand's sole nanomechanical testing lab, which conducts research into breaking extremely small materials such as cells. [1]

Dickinson is a senior lecturer in Chemical and Material Engineering at Auckland University, and an associate investigator at the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. [5]


Dickinson has said that she used to be painfully shy and afraid of public speaking. On the advice of a speaking coach, she invented the alter-ego "Nanogirl" as a way to overcome her nerves. [6] Initially Dickinson used the name "Nanogirl" to write a science blog, then as it became more popular she started a YouTube channel and began to speak at schools and events. [6] She has regular speaking slots on radio and television and is invited to events such as TED conferences. [2] In December 2016, Dickinson delivered a live, theatrical science experiment show titled “Little Bang, Big Bang” in towns, cities and schools around New Zealand during a 3-week tour of the country. [7]

Charity work

Dickinson co-founded the charity OMGTech in 2014 with Vaughan Rowsell and Rab Heath to provide children of all ages and backgrounds access to learning opportunities about technology. [8] Sessions involve hands-on learning of 3D-printing, coding, robotics and science. [9] The charity also supports teachers in low-decile schools to gain confidence in using technology in their teaching. [1] In October 2016, Dickinson resigned from her position at OMG Tech to concentrate on her Nanogirl activities. [10]

Clothes design

In 2015, Dickinson collaborated with the New Zealand clothing company Icebreaker, a technical designer and a printer to produce a line of dresses featuring science and technology-related designs. [11]


In 2017, Dickinson wrote No.8 Re-Charged, a book about world-changing innovations from New Zealand. [12] In 2018, she wrote The Kitchen Science Cookbook, a book showcasing science experiments that can be done in the kitchen. [13]

Awards and recognition

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Michelle Dickinson MNZM". Sir Peter Blake Trust. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Michelle Dickinson: Scientist, adventurer, charity founder". Inspiring Women. Ministry for Women. 3 August 2015. Archived from the original on 24 September 2018. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  3. "Michelle Dickinson: "There is a little girl out there, nine weeks old ... she is genetically half mine"". www.noted.co.nz. 5 September 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  4. "'Nanogirl' Michelle Dickinson wins Blake Leader Award". www.scoop.co.nz. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  5. "Dr Michelle Dickinson". MacDiarmid Institute. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  6. 1 2 "'Nano Girl' to take on TEDx". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  7. "Making science happen with Nanogirl's 'Big Bang Little Bang' Live Tour". 2 December 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  8. "Who Are We". OMGTech!. Archived from the original on 27 July 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  9. "2015 Callaghan Medal: Nanogirl recognised for exciting young people about science". Royal Society of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  11. "Dresses for Science and Tech loving women!". Sciblogs. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  12. "No.8 Re-charged by David Downs". www.penguin.co.nz. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  13. "The Kitchen Science Cookbook". www.whitcoulls.co.nz. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  14. "Previous winners". The Prime Minister's Science Prizes. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  15. "New Zealand Association of Scientists Awards 2014" (PDF). New Zealand Association of Scientists. 10 November 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
  16. "Queen's Birthday honours list 2015". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 1 June 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  17. "2015 Callaghan Medal: Nanogirl recognised for exciting young people about science". Royal Society of New Zealand. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  18. "Women of Influence winners". Stuff. Retrieved 13 October 2016.