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The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Cover - Child Ge­nius airs over two weeks at 7.30pm, Novem­ber 12–14 and 19–21, on SBS.

ccord­ing to Car­land, Aly han­dled the re­jec­tion gra­ciously. “He moved on with his life and I moved on with mine, but I re­alised, in the back of my mind, I was al­ways com­par­ing other guys to him. And I was, ‘Why am I do­ing that? I don’t even like this guy.’ And then I re­alised: ‘Oh, I re­ally do like him. Oh no, what have I done?’” she says with a laugh. “So I had to go grov­el­ling back.”

Aly ac­knowl­edges the re­jec­tion was “ob­vi­ously pretty crush­ing, but what else could I do?” He tried to move on but ad­mit­tedly didn’t get very far. “Any­way, turns out I must be at my most en­dear­ing when I’m com­pletely ab­sent be­cause it ac­tu­ally wasn’t that long be­fore she got back in touch to say she’d made a ter­ri­ble mis­take,” he tells Stel­lar. They were mar­ried in 2002 and now live in Melbourne’s in­ner-city Rich­mond.

After 16 years of mar­riage, Car­land says the se­cret to their union is that they both have a healthy – and sweet – sense of grat­i­tude. “We both sort of look at each other and go, ‘How did I get so lucky?’”

As for Aly, The Project host ap­pears in awe of Car­land. “What­ever im­pres­sion you have [of Car­land], you’re un­der­rat­ing her,” he says, per­haps point­ing to the habit of some in the me­dia re­fer­ring to her as “Waleed Aly’s wife” in spite of her im­pres­sive cre­den­tials. “On the flip side, if we turned up at the UN or some­thing I’m sure I’d very firmly be Su­san Car­land’s hus­band,” Aly points out.

Cer­tainly for her other new gig, host­ing the awards cer­e­mony in Melbourne this Thurs­day for the pres­ti­gious L’oréal- UN­ESCO For Women in Sci­ence Fel­low­ship pro­gram, which recog­nises the most out­stand­ing fe­male sci­en­tific re­searchers in Aus­tralia, the fo­cus will be firmly placed on women. L’oréal Aus­tralia has now ex­panded the pro­gram to in­clude two Girls in Sci­ence fo­rums as well as a men­tor­ing pro­gram for fe­male sec­ondary and ter­tiary stu­dents. For Car­land, it is a sub­ject close to her heart.

“I did a sci­ence de­gree in uni­ver­sity as well as an arts de­gree. I love sci­ence. I re­mem­ber in my chem­istry class, there were maybe only two other girls in there,” she says. “[The pro­gram] is about push­ing women for­ward and say­ing, ‘ This is what women in sci­ence look like. This is how it’s suc­cess­ful and good and some­thing you can aspire to.’”

While Car­land is in­creas­ingly used to be­ing in the spot­light in a pro­fes­sional ca­pac­ity, she finds the at­ten­tion on her per­sonal life more dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile. She is not afraid to be vo­cal with her opin­ions – from the hi­jab (“How I dress is not a state­ment on how any­one else dresses. Moral­ity is not de­fined by the clothes you wear”) to how fem­i­nism and Is­lam can co­ex­ist (“I did my whole PHD on Mus­lim women who fight sex­ism. I find it a lazy mis­un­der­stand­ing that peo­ple just fall back on old tropes, and this can come from in­side and out­side the Mus­lim com­mu­nity”).

“What I re­alised very early on is that if you try to keep ev­ery­body happy, you will go ba­nanas,” she says of the risk that can come with speak­ing her mind. “There will al­ways be some­one who has a prob­lem with what you do. Since when did be­ing uni­ver­sally liked be­come the goal? The most im­por­tant peo­ple in the world had peo­ple who hated them. All I can do is try to live a life of in­tegrity.”

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