Sue Barrell

“Believe in yourself and your ability to achieve your goals.”

Quick Facts

Nationality: Australian

Occupation: Chief Scientist at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, with responsibility for diversity and inclusion.

Known For: Becoming the first ever female meteorologist to hold a senior executive position at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Childhood and Education

Sue Barrell was born in Australia and grew up in a highly supportive family. Ever since she was a young child, Sue has always loved maths and science and was very much encouraged by her parents and teachers not to let gender barriers influence what she chose to study [1]. Sue decided to go to the University of Canterbury in New Zealand to study for a BSc in Physics [2]. She then moved on to the Australian National University in Canberra, where she received her PhD in Astronomy [2]. Discussing her career options, Sue thought about meteorology and realised that it involved both subjects that she found interesting – maths and physics [2]. Fortunately for her, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology were offering their Graduate Diploma in Meteorology training course just at the right time, so Sue went there to complete it [2].


In 1980 Sue joined the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, where she has since remained all her career [3]. Throughout this time she has held a variety of positions, her first of which was as a trainee forecaster [1]. She has since worked in research, climate science policy and observations, operational forecasting and systems development [4]. In 2004, Sue secured her first major role as Branch Head of the Observations and Engineering section of the Bureau [4]. Following this, she progressed on to become the Deputy Director of the Observations and Infrastructure division in 2014, responsible for the development and operation of meteorological structures and facilities across Australia [4]. In securing this role, Sue became the first female meteorologist to be on the senior executive team at the Bureau [1]. As of 2017, Sue remains in this position and has also recently become the Bureau’s Chief Scientist [5]. This means that Sue is now actively engaged in and responsible for diversity and inclusion within the Bureau [4]. Elsewhere, from 2008-2016 Sue was the Vice President of the World Meteorological Organisations’ Commission for Basic Systems [3]. Then in 2016-2017 she became Australia’s main representative to the WMO [4].

Awards and Achievements

  • Up to July 2017, Sue has published more than 25 papers [6].
  • Elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering in 2013 [6].
  • Science and Technology Australia named Sue as one of ’30 Superstars of STEM’, which aims to provide young women and girls in STEM subjects with role models [4]. 


  • Sue attended an all-girls school where previously any girls that wanted to study physics had to attend classes at the neighbouring boys school. But whilst Sue was at school her maths teacher introduced a similar course at the girl’s school, which Sue took full advantage of [7].

Video Links

Barrell talks about the importance of female leadership and women as role models in science (4mins):