Five women scientists have won £5,000 each to promote science through public engagement to help change the face of STEM.
Women scientists are leading ground-breaking research across the world, but despite their remarkable discoveries, women still only represent one third of researchers globally. The work of women in STEM rarely gains the recognition it deserves, with only 3% of Nobel Prizes for Science having been awarded to women. A lack of representation, recognition and opportunity continues to perpetuate inequality in the sector.
L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science (FWIS) is a global programme that aims to empower more women scientists to achieve scientific excellence and participate equally in solving the great challenges facing humanity. The Ambassador Fund is an annual award open to FWIS alumnae in the UK and Ireland and consists of grants to support women scientists to promote science through outreach activities.
James Bridge, Chief Executive and Secretary General of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, said:
“Congratulations to the winners of the Ambassador Fund. Not only are these five scientists conducting ground-breaking research in their fields, they are also working to change the face of STEM by encouraging young people, and particularly girls, to pursue a career in the sector”.
This year’s winners and their projects that will be supported by the Ambassador Fund are:
- Tanya Hutter – Women Ahead of Their Time
- Nathalie Pettorelli and Seirian Sumner – Soapbox Science
- Jennifer Carter – Making the Invisible Visible
- Sepideh Khodaparast – Science Outreach for Girls in London and Leeds
- Lucia Prieto-Godino – TReND in Africa
Find out more about their work below
For Women in Science Physical Sciences Award Winner – 2016
Dr Tanya Hutter is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas, having completed her PhD and postdoc at the University of Cambridge. In 2018, together with a group of PhD students and graduates at Cambridge, Tanya founded the non-profit organisation, Women Ahead of Their Time (WATT). The mission is to promote gender equality in areas where women are still underrepresented. WATT aims to build a global platform to showcase different careers in STEM, encouraging diversity in the next generation of leaders and ensuring the sustainability and growth of the global economy.
Tanya will use the 2021 Ambassador Fund to a create a series of nine podcast episodes, interviewing a range of talented women in STEM, covering topics from academic careers, balancing work and caring responsibilities and male supporters. Research shows that women are twice as likely to pursue a STEM career if they have a relatable role model. These podcasts will be a way to broadcast role models to a wide audience with the aim of ‘demystifying’ the STEM career and show how fulfilling, impactful, and creative it can be.
Nathalie Pettorelli and Seirian Sumner
For Women in Science Life Science Award Winners – 2007 and 2010
Dr Nathalie Pettorelli and Prof Seirian Sumner are the co-founders of Soapbox Science, a public outreach platform for promoting women and non-binary scientists and their research. Nathalie is a conservation biologist at the Zoological Society of London; Seirian is a behavioural ecologist at University College London.
Soapbox Science is a unique science communication platform that, with support from the Ambassador Fund in previous years, has grown from one UK event in 2011 to a planned 45 events across five continents in 2021 (both live and online).
The 2021 Ambassador Fund will support Nathalie and Seirian to deliver the Soapbox Science London event, which will feature 12 women in STEM who work in London-based institutions. The 2021 event will happen online on 23rd June and includes a series of short, creative, video presentations from women scientists about their work and a live Q & A session which will take place on the Soapbox Science YouTube channel.
For Women in Science Physical Sciences Award Winner – 2020
Dr Jenny Carter, together with her colleague, Dr Gabby Provan, at the Planetary Science Group at the University of Leicester will be taking their “Making the invisible visible” public engagement event to Leicestershire schools this autumn. Pupils will explore the invisible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum via hands-on activities and a planetarium show, and learn how the SMILE space mission will take the first X-ray pictures of the Earth’s magnetic field interacting with the Sun’s solar wind.
The Ambassador Fund will be used to support Jenny in delivering exhibition-style events which involve various activities and equipment including an inflatable planetarium to explore the visible night sky, and an infrared hand-held camera. This series of events will target specifically low-science capital areas in Leicestershire, which have currently low-levels of engagement with higher education.
Find out more by following @JennyaCarter on Twitter and using the hashtag #SMILEesacas.
For Women in Science Engineering Award Winner – 2019
Dr Sepideh Khodaparast is a research group leader in Mechanical Engineering at University of Leeds. Her research is focused on development of novel chemical-free anti-fouling solutions for synthetic and biological contamination sources. Using the Ambassador Fund, she will organise science outreach programmes for young school-age girls in London and Leeds.
In collaboration with non-profit organisations, I CAN BE and STEM@Leeds, Sepideh will deliver a series of interactive seminars, comprising a short presentation about STEM careers, followed by hands-on scientific experiments designed deliberately to inspire different age groups.
Lack of interaction with women in science and engineering careers alongside discouragement from pursuing interest in maths and sciences starts from an early age for girls. The aim of these outreach seminars is to introduce girls to a realistic image of careers available for women in science and present science as a fun, challenging and rewarding career pathway.
For Women in Science Life Science Award Winner – 2018
Dr Lucia Prieto-Godino is a neuroscientist working at the Francis Crick Institute where she leads the Neural Circuits and Evolution lab. She is also the founding director of TReND in Africa, a non-profit organisation devoted to promoting scientific research and education in the African continent. The Ambassador Fund will enable Lucia, together with colleagues at TReND, to organise a series of outreach events on diverse topics and settings across the continent.
The activities that the 2021 Ambassador Fund will support include workshops at schools in Malawi focusing on science-based solutions to issues faced by the community, and providing microgrants for TReND alumnae to organise their own outreach events across Africa. TReND aims to promote engagement between local scientists and citizens, and to encourage young people to pursue STEM disciplines.
“It is important to empower and inspire women to set ambitious goals. By telling the stories of female role models in STEM, we want young women to feel they too can overcome challenges, study at top universities and succeed in important and challenging careers.”
Dr Tanya Hutter, Assistant Professor at University of Texas and Co-Founder of Women Ahead of Their Time
“Public engagement can provide a very real and up-front approach to increasing the visibility of women in science and raising awareness of the gender gap in scientific disciplines; they can help promote the emergence of role models that will spur on the young scientists of the future, while challenging stereotypes on who or what a scientist really is. These objectives are at the core of what Soapbox Science aims to achieve.”
Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, Senior Research Fellow at ZSL Institute of Zoology and Co-Founder of Soapbox Science
“Science is part of everyone’s lives, but many people feel removed from the scientific process – through hands-on and practical activities we hope to bring some of the joy of discovery to people that have limited access to traditional science events.”
Dr Jennifer Carter, Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Leicester
“Bringing experimental demonstrations to primary schools will allow disadvantaged children to gain direct access to the beauty and the power of science.”
Dr Sepideh Khodaparast, Academic Fellow at University of Leeds
“Every person should understand the value of science and every child should be able to dream of becoming a scientist. By working with African scientists we are working towards this goal in some of the world’s most disadvantage regions.”
Dr Lucia Prieto-Godino, Group Leader at Francis Crick Institute and Founding Director of TReND in Africa