Celebrating women in science on International Women’s Day
“We must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in us; we must match our aspirations with the competence, courage and determination to succeed.”
These are the powerful words of Dr Rosalyn Yalow, a medical physicist and recipient of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her work on the development of the radioimmunoassay (RIA) technique. Rosalyn dedicated her Nobel Banquet speech to the plethora of barriers that women faced in science, culture, and beyond.
Fast forward four decades. While there is still an inherent gender imbalance across many facets of society, incredible inroads are being made towards equality – especially within STEM. According to the WISE Campaign, in the UK 61,430 more women work in core STEM fields in 2017 than 2016. At Notch, we are proud to be a diverse organisation. This International Women’s Day, we are celebrating the fantastic women creating brilliance in our workplace, who felt determined to succeed in STEM – just like Rosalyn.
As more women and girls are inspired to study and work in STEM, we hope these figures will continue to exponentially grow. Now, we hear from Notchers – of all genders – about what inspired them to study or work in a STEM-related field, as well as what equality in STEM means to them.
A woman in STEM that I look up to: Susan Greenfield
|Music, art and languages were my passions until that first, unforgettable neurobiology lesson, one chilly Friday morning when I was 17. Until that day, science seemed to comprise of learning abstract facts and symbols created from dead people’s observations. Suddenly, I was transported into a world where the science was just getting started. Research into the brain may have begun centuries ago, but it was clear that scientists were still trying out new ideas to understand the workings of one of life’s most mysterious and beautiful creations: the brain. For the first time, chemistry, physics and biology came together in my mind. I began to realise that science could be about applying supreme creativity firstly to understand the world around us, and then to set about making it better. Decades later, I get to see and hear the impact of the true magic of science every day, as we at Notch help reveal the creativity behind technological innovations.|
Shelley Farrar Stoakes
A woman in STEM that I look up to: Mrs Firth (High School Biology and Chemistry Teacher), Sue Black (Anatomist and Forensic Anthropologist) and Ada Lovelace
|I was the child with world-weary parents who were forced to answer all my questions. Prior to the days of having Google in your pocket, my Mum and Dad encouraged me to go to that other great bastion of knowledge – the library. This is where I learnt why the sky is blue, how sharks swim in their sleep, and the Moon’s influence on tides. School taught me the joy of designing experiments to directly provide me with answers. My innate curiosity sent me on a path of discovery. I still feel the same thrill at every new scientific breakthrough or technological innovation that I experienced as a child.|
Women in STEM that I look up to: see below!
|Have you heard of Ada Yonath? If not, go read this, now. I had the honour of hearing her speak at a conference in Prague a couple of years ago and I was blown away by how inspirational her story is. She won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2009, in part for publishing the first atomic-resolution structural studies of the ribosome, the molecular machine that synthesises proteins. It might be hard to grasp just how big a feat this was, but understand that when she started this work in the 80s, it was widely derided as impossible. She helped develop entirely new, cutting edge techniques that now form the basis of structural biology, a key field in drug development. From Ada Yonath to Ada Lovelace, as well as my PhD co-supervisor Gisela Brändén, inspiring women have had a profound impact on my scientific career. By locking women out of STEM through cultural norms and gender stereotypes, we risk missing out on discoveries that push at the very boundaries of collective human knowledge, and we are all worse off for it.|
Woman in STEM that I look up to: Jess Wade
|Growing up, my feet were firmly planted in the humanities camp. I much preferred my Horrible History novels to the David Attenborough documentaries that many hark back to when talking about what got them into science. It wasn’t until later on in secondary school, when I learnt about the real-world applications of science, that the inspiration started to take hold. Whether it was reading about how gene therapy might improve the quality of life for patients with chronic diseases, or exploring how natural selection led us to be exactly who we are today – this fascination confirmed that I was a scientist. At Notch, this enthusiasm has tied in perfectly with my love for humanities (and consequently, writing). Now, I get to write about interesting scientific innovations, projects and developments every day!|
Women in STEM that I look up to: (as a film and TV nerd) Lisa Simpson, for being a role model anyone can look up to, and also Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, stars of the incredible film Hidden Figures.
|Science is supposed to be accessible by everyone regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status. So why should scientific discovery be limited to only a few? The answer is that they shouldn’t be, and we should all be doing everything we can to encourage and inspire anyone to study STEM subjects (and partly because they’re awesome). Future scientists and business leaders are among us, and it up to us as scientific communicators to do all we can to ensure that opportunities are available to everyone.|
Woman in STEM that I look up to: Maja Jagodic
|How to define my love for science? It must be that I never, ever, want to stop learning new things, and in science this learning is everlasting. New hypotheses will constantly emerge, and the answers that are fixed today may be renegotiated as we understand more tomorrow. I fell in love with science late in life, we did not get properly introduced until I was in in my late 20s. Our relationship has evolved overtime and we have found the roles we’re comfortable in. We’re going to grow old together. I hope to see the day when all of the knowledge gathered across every discipline in medical science are merged through the technology, and we can tap into decades of curiosity, determination and innovation.|
Woman in STEM that I look up to: Marie Curie
|I’ve always had an interest in science, but never pictured to be working in this industry, especially after I focused my studies on business and marketing. So, it was quite a surprise when I received a call from Kate at Notch offering me an interview after interning for a large B2B advertising agency. At first, I wasn’t sure how I could contribute as a Planner, working on the strategy of clients I hadn’t even heard of. Three years later, I still absolutely love the challenge and complexity of the life science industry (which is probably more complex to me as a non-scientist) and that feeling of learning important, new things every day. Working in a scientific environment is also exciting for the people that surround you: it is rather exhilarating to share an office with a team who are passionate about new discoveries! I hope I am becoming in some way, a woman in STEM.|
Woman in STEM that I look up to: Rosalind Franklin
|My scientific passion was first ignited as a child, when I spent many hours watching various crime programmes with my Nana and was captivated by the task of solving whodunit. I soon became fascinated by all things forensic and, eventually, by the need to understand exactly why things happen or how they work. My love for writing has also been a constant in my life, providing me with an outlet for my creative impulses. I eventually chose to study Microbiology at university, but quickly made up for any bias by then spending two years as an English teacher. Now, at Notch, I get to strike the perfect balance between my two passions every day. As of yet, I haven’t lost my inherent craving for knowledge and I hope I never do.|
Woman in STEM that I look up to: Marian Diamond
|Growing up bilingual, it always fascinated me that I didn’t have to make any conscious effort to switch from one language to another. This is a very simple process for anyone fluent in more than one language. But how? This is a question that always puzzled me.
This fascination with the workings of the human brain, and a kindly gifted book of brain facts, led to an early interest in neuroscience for me. However, what I first imagined to be a super machine capable of anything, slowly revealed itself to actually be a very intricate biological system that could be extensively damaged by the slightest abnormality. And, therefore, understanding how this system functions – and how we can intervene when it isn’t functioning properly – is crucial.Although my calling was not in the lab, communicating the importance of research in science and speaking to fascinating scientists at the forefront of incredible research in the field of neuroscience, amongst many others, is one of the best parts of my job.
Woman in STEM that I look up to: Vikki Carolan
|What is my first memory of being inspired by science? Every Saturday morning, without fail, I would set my alarm for 7am to watch the TV show ‘Brainiac’! They’d blow stuff up; undertaking amazing demonstrations that your Mum would warn you not to even think about attempting. Importantly, they’d always give you the scientific explanations behind their crazy exploits.Over the years I’d noticed that science was dominated by men. This definitely fuelled my love (stubbornness) for science – if they can do it, why can’t I! Often, I would be the only girl in the class, but that only drove me to do and be better, louder, and heard.
I am so grateful for the men and women in my life I grew up around, they have all pushed me to be what I want to be. I never felt like gender inequality was stopping me from pursuing my studies and a career in science – and I appreciate the privilege.