Dr Rashel Li

BSc (Hons) (Astrophysics), ANU
PhD Graduate

Rashel did her undergraduate degree at The Australian National University (ANU) from 2007 to 2009. She double majored in Physics and Astrophysics for the Bachelor of Science degree. She extended her studies for a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Astrophysics undertaken at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) at Mt. Stromlo Observatory in 2010.

During her honours year, she realised that science communication was more suitable for her and decided to undertake a PhD degree at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at ANU in 2011.

Her PhD research examined the American situation comedy "The Big Bang Theory" which revolves around the life of two physicists, Leonard (experimental physicist) and Sheldon (theoretical physicist). The show has a strong scientific basis and the information is mostly accurate which if successful communicated, can become a powerful tool for engaging the audience with science.

Research interests

Rashel's PhD project was on the American TV sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" and investigating how the science in the show (which is mostly correct) is communicated to the audience. However, since she has a background in astrophysics, she is also interested in the misconception of astronomy especially through the media such as TV shows and movies.

Journal Papers

  • Li, R. & Orthia, L.A. (2015) Communicating the nature of science through The Big Bang Theory: Evidence from a focus group study. International Journal of Science Education Part B: Communication and Public Engagement. Prepublished online 13 March 2015. doi: 10.1080/21548455.2015.1020906.

Refereed proceedings

  • Li, R. & Orthia, L.A. (2013) Are people inspired by The Big Bang Theory to find out more about science? Results from focus group-based audience research. Proceedings of 4th Annual Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand (PopCAANZ) Conference, Brisbane, 24-26 June, 2013, pp. 248-257.

Conference papers

  • Li, R. (2015) "I believe in a gender blind society like Star Trek": The importance of portraying gender balance in science on The Big Bang Theory. Paper presented at the Stories About Science: exploring science communication and entertainment media Symposium, Manchester, England, June 4-5 2015.
  • Li, R. (2013) "What's the jist, physicist?" Understanding the nature of a career in science using The Big Bang Theory. Paper presented at the International PCA/ACA Conference, Warsaw, Poland, July 22-24 2013.
  • Li, R. (2013) "When you understand the laws of physics, Penny, anything is possible": Sparking interest in science through The Big Bang Theory. Paper presented at the PopCAANZ 4th Annual International Conference, Brisbane, Australia, June 24-26 2013.


  • Hanson, T. (2015, June 9) Entertaining Science: A report from colloquy at the intersection of science and entertainment [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blog.castac.org/2015/06/entertaining-science/.
  • Cerabona, R. (2011), 'Looking for a big bang', The Canberra Times - Panorama, 12 November, p. 15-16.