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Women in Science: Nurturing Nobels

12 March 2012

Suffrage Science brooch

UCL scientists were involved in an event that celebrated leading women in science from across the world, held on International Women´s Day (8 March) at the Science Museum's Dana Centre.

Last year, ten female life scientists and communicators were awarded a jewellery heirloom by the Medical Research Council as part of their Suffrage Science project, commemorating 100 years of women pioneers in life science.

In receiving the heirloom, they understood that they had to pass it on to a younger woman in science, within a year, in a bid to encourage them to make their way to the top. 

At the event, ‘Women in Science: Nurturing Nobels’, Professor Mary Collins (Dean of UCL Life Sciences) and Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) both passed on their heirlooms to their nominated recipients – Tracey Barrett (Birkbeck College) and Emily Holmes (University of Oxford).

Separately, Dr Christiana Ruhrberg (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology) was an heirloom recipient. She said: “I feel honoured to receive a jewellery heirloom from my PhD supervisor and mentor, Professor Fiona Watt (Cancer Research UK).

“Fiona has been a role model for me and many other female scientists embarking on a research career due to her never-ending enthusiasm, great intelligence and ability to motivate even in the face of adversity.”

The heirlooms were designed by Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and inspired by jewellery of the suffrage period.

Alongside the ceremony, a debate took place covering questions such as why there are so few female Nobel prize-winning scientists and whether the Nobel committee ignores women.

The debate was led by science broadcaster Vivienne Parry (UCL Zoology 1978 and Vice-Chair of UCL Council), who talked about how she has achieved success in her own career and introduced her nominated recipient, Elizabeth Murchison (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute).

In 2013, a sequel to Suffrage Science will be launched to highlight exceptional women in medicine and related engineering and physical sciences. This will be funded by Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, and will be accompanied by a new collection of heirlooms.

Image: Suffrage Heirloom Brooch by Anya Malhotra (Central Saint Martins)