Astrophysics: Designing for inclusion

PhD defence 

Doctoral candidateLine Bruun Nicolaisen

Line Bruun Nicolaisen


When museums design exhibitions, they create room for experiences that allow the public to engage with knowledge about themselves and the world they live in. However, which publics do they serve? Embedded within the design of exhibitions are values and practices, which may hinder the inclusion of some of the users they are set to serve.

This thesis sets out to understand and address this challenge within a specific frame: planetaria and the topics of astrophysics, space technology and planetary science. Astrophysics is viewed as a gateway to science, due to its ability to create awe. However, in the culture of astrophysics there is a persistent degree of gender imbalance. Thus, this thesis asks if this gender bias becomes unintentionally reproduced in the exhibitions on astrophysics, space technology and planetary science? If so, how can we design exhibitions and present astrophysics in a way that are more inclusive to a greater diversity of users?

The aim of this project is to help advance a more diversified science communication in general and astrophysics in particular. The aim is fulfilled through a study of the public communication at planetariums and the possible mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion mechanism at play there.

In empirical terms, the project co-designs the exhibition Made in Space together with the Planetarium located in Copenhagen. In methodological terms, the thesis connects theory with practice by operationalising post-modern feminist theory through design-based research. The co-design process is informed by a series of interviews with potential user and the development process oscillates between phases of intervention, analysis and re-design.

The projects results will help advance more diversified and inclusive modes of exhibition communication and will help strengthen the knowledge base necessary for designing for equity. These insights are of key relevance for future communication at science centres and natural history museums, just as the issue of designing for diversified communication is of wider importance for the museum sector.

The project has been carried out in collaboration with Planetarium, as part of the research program 'Vores Museum' (

Download the thesis: Astrophysics: Designing for inclusion

Assessment Committee

Lene Møller Madsen, (Head of assessment committee) Associate Professor, Department of Science Education

Martha Marandino, Associate Professor, University of São Paulo

Urban Eriksson, Associate Professor, Lund University


Marianne Achiam, Associate Professor, Department of Science Education


Henriette Tolstrup Holmegaard, Associate Professor, Department of Science Education

The defence will take place in zoom: