On International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 11 February, Fitz MCR and the Development Office joined forces to celebrate some of the women in science in College and the wider community, and to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
Dr Cora Uhlemann (Fitzwilliam Fellow and Research Associate, DAMTP) hosted a panel of inspiring speakers from hugely varied fields of science. She introduced the evening with some fundamental statistics: while some sciences, such as vet medicine, are female-dominated, most suffer from a real gender bias. In some fields such as computer science and physics, barely 25% of the workforce is female. In Cambridge, while a good number of young women pursue science degrees, the senior ranks of academics and management continue to be overwhelmingly male.
Dr Christelle Abadie (Fitzwilliam Bye-Fellow) opened the evening with an account of her journey from university in France to a PhD and postdoctoral positions in Oxford, and eventually a lectureship in Cambridge. Her career has been shaped by her values: a desire to make clean energy affordable and available took her back to academia to work on offshore wind turbines, and she is now a world expert on their foundations.
Dr Kanwal Bhatia followed by reinforcing the message that a career is rarely a logical progression of steps. Although Kanwal did a PhD in optical imaging, and ten years later is now Lead Data Scientist at Visulytix, an optical imaging company, her path was far from linear! It took in a stint as a quant analyst and several postdocs along the way to find the right balance of research, impact, and career stability.
Similarly, Alex Jenkin (Project Manager, Science and Plants for Schools at the Gatsby Science Centre - Natural Sciences 2007) never thought she would end up working with plants and promoting plant science, finding them boring at school. All that changed at university however, and she went on to do a Masters in Science Communication. Alex described how, since then, she has worked with organizations inspiring young people to work in science, and particularly the too-often-neglected plant sciences!
Dr Lizzie Radford, Academic Clinical Lecturer and Pediatrician at the Department of Paediatrics (Medicine 2003), always knew she wanted to be a doctor, but did not foresee that she would become so intrigued by research along the way that she would pursue a PhD. Following stern but inspiring words from a colleague, she applied for an academic clinical lectureship, which would allow her to combine research with being a pediatrician – and to her own surprise, won the position!
One thread ran through the evening: the course is rarely straightforward, but follow your instincts, pursue what makes you happy, and things have a way of working out! Hard work is essential, but so is self-belief. Though this often challenging, look for people who believe in you, take opportunities, and don’t be afraid to be brave. It was an inspiring evening for all who attended, and warm thanks to all our speakers.