Culture

Celebrating & Inspiring Women in Science

The Suffrage Science awards scheme, curated by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, celebrates women in STEM subjects, and encourages others to enter scientific fields and reach senior leadership roles.

By Djembayz via Wikimedia Commons

Over one hundred years after the first women in Britain got the vote, women still make up only 24% of those working in core science, technology, engineering and mathematics occupations in the UK.

Recent data has revealed that women make up just 13% of students studying computer science or related university courses in the UK. Women studying biology total 61% and of students studying chemistry, 44% are women. There is a similar lack of females studying mathematics courses – a total of 36% of students.

On Friday 6 November 2020, 11 life scientists and science communicators, and 11 mathematicians and computer scientists, from across the world, were recognised for their scientific achievements and the work they do to promote STEM for the next generation.

The 22 awardees are chosen by the previous award holders for their scientific achievements and ability to inspire others. This scientific “relay” takes place every two years, and creates an inspiring network of women connected by their link to the scheme.

The awards themselves are hand-crafted items of jewellery created by art students from Central Saint Martins-UAL, who worked with scientists to design pieces inspired by research and by the Suffragette movement, from which the award scheme takes its name.

At this special “virtual” handover event, award-winning science writer, author and broadcaster, Dr Kat Arney, led a discussion on central themes of 2020, in particular the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Suffrage Science scheme was initiated by Professor Dame Amanda Fisher, Director of the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, in 2011.

Professor Fisher said:

“With the awards scheme now in its ninth year, these ‘heirloom’ items of inspiring jewellery have helped to create a self-perpetuating network of talent and contacts to help others to succeed in science and engineering.

“This year’s awardees join a community of over 130 women scientists.

” Since 2011, the awards have travelled from the UK, across Europe to the USA, Hong Kong and to Uganda, illustrating the international nature of science and engineering, and the global effort to improve the representation of women in STEM.”

The ‘heirloom’ jewellery awarded to the Suffrage Science ‘life sciences’ recipients. Credit Layton Thompson

The 2020 Life Sciences award winners are:

  • Dr Kelly Nguyen, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, UK
  • Professor Naomi Matsuura, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Professor Elspeth Garman, University of Oxford, UK
  • Dr Veronique Miron, University of Edinburgh, UK
  • Dr Cécile Martinat, I-STEM, France
  • Professor Zena Werb, University of California, San Francisco, USA
  • Professor Samantha Joye, University of Georgia, USA
  • Professor Gisou van der Goot, EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Professor Karalyn Patterson, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Professor Laura Colgin, University of Texas Austin, USA
  • Professor Claudia Mazzà, University of Sheffield, UK
The ‘heirloom’ jewellery awarded to the Suffrage Science ‘maths & computing’ recipients. Credit Layton Thompson

The 2020 Maths and Computing award winners are:

  • Dr Rhian Daniel, Cardiff University, UK
  • Dr Juhyun Park, Lancaster University, UK
  • Professor Apala Majumdar, University of Strathclyde, UK
  • Professor Bianca de Stavola, University College London, UK
  • Professor Sara Lombardo, Loughborough University, UK
  • Professor Wendy Mackay, Inria, Paris-Saclay, France
  • Professor Yvonne Rogers, University College London, UK
  • Professor Alexandra Silva, University College London, UK
  • Professor Nobuko Yoshida, Imperial College London, UK
  • Dr Sue Sentance, King’s College London/Raspberry Pi Foundation, UK
  • Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, STEMettes, UK

Each previous holder chooses to whom they want to pass their ‘heirloom’ piece of jewellery.

Credit MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences

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