UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


UCL Research Fellow wins EDI Award

15 November 2019

Dr Ying Lia Li, Research Fellow in UCL Physics & Astronomy, is one of five individuals to win a ‘Make Space for Inclusion in STEM’ award.

Dr Ying Lia Li - Award winner

Organised by The STEM Squad - a community of STEM professionals dedicated to the advancement and inclusion of those from traditionally marginalised backgrounds – the awards aim to recognise, celebrate and encourage people who dedicate their time to make space for others. Individuals are nominated by others in the field, and winners receive a $100 award as a symbol of appreciation for the work that they do.

In addition to her work using optical whispering gallery mode resonances for sensing motion at the classical/quantum boundary, Lia is a fierce advocate for under-represented groups in physics. She has supported UCL students and staff by running the Women in Physics Group between 2017-2019, introducing career panels, Wikithons with Dr. Jess Wade and Dr. Alice White that increase the representation of women and LGBTQ+ researchers on Wikipedia, and a thank you card for Prof. Jocelyn Bell Burnell for her Special Breakthrough Prize donation to the Institute of Physics. 

Lia will now focus her efforts as a member of the UCL Race Equality Steering Group, aiming to improve the representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic researchers. In addition, is a member of the TIGER IN STEMM group led by Prof Rachel Oliver, which looks into how funding in STEM affects researchers from under-represented groups. The TIGERs are working with the Science and Technology Select Committee to look into the data around funding allocation for science research.

About the Award

Asked about the award, Lia said “"Winning this award is only possible because of my amazing network of women in the Physics & Astronomy Department who have mentored and supported me for many years. I’d like to thank in particular Dr. Louise Dash (Chair of the Equality and Diversity Committee), Dr. Antonia Bevan (Welfare Committee, Preventing Sexual Misconduct Strategy Group), Prof. Dorothy Duffy (Women in Physics Group) and Prof. Alexandra Olaya-Castro (Vice-dean of ED&I for MAPS). It takes many voices working together to make real impact, requiring courage to speak out, the humility to listen to others, and the determination to work together. This award means so much to me because the invisible labour of equality, diversity & inclusion work is not celebrated enough. If you want to learn more there are so many data resources and testimonies gathered by the TIGERS in STEMM , which is open to membership and already has representation within various UCL departments.”

Lia was nominated for the prize by Madina Wane, a PhD at Imperial. She says “I found out about the awards and Lia’s work through Twitter. Lia exemplifies the honesty, dedication, and allyship we need to make STEM a better place for everyone. Seeing Lia's work and commitment recognized makes me optimistic that all the efforts to improve STEM are slowly but surely making a difference. Lia and The STEM Squad have shown me that community is incredibly important if we want to improve STEM for all. Through her work in science communication, entrepreneurship, and advocacy, Lia has shown me that there are many opportunities to improve society as a scientist. Making a positive difference is as much about your work beyond research as it is about your scientific contributions”. 

Other winners of the Make Space for Inclusion in STEM award 2019 are:

Dr Evan Tyler - an Assistant Professor of Physics at the College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, Evan was selected for his outstanding contribution in making STEM more inclusive, in particular through his work with Queer Science, an organization providing mentorship to LGBTQ+ youth in STEM.

Korene Gbozah - Korene Gbozah is from Charlotte, NC. She is a senior at UNC Chapel Hill majoring in Biology with minors in Chemistry and African American and Diaspora Studies. Korene is the founder and Co-Director of a student-run peer mentorship program called Xcel: Advising Program for Minorities in STEM. This program pairs first-year/ transfer minority students with upperclassmen in the STEM field to help them feel welcome at UNC.

Dr Nicole Ferrara – Dr Ferrara recently started a postdoctoral position at Rosalind Franklin University Medical School with Amiel Rosenkranz where she will study how the neural mechanisms of memory processing change during development. During her doctoral work, she formed an American Association of University Women (AAUW) student organization to promote women in university and expand outreach efforts, and participated in the Engaging Girls in STEM Prep-Pro workshops, which provide high school students the opportunity to STEM professionals about college and career trajectories. 

Nikita Bharati - Nikita Bharati is currently a junior in high school in Arizona. In addition to her studies, she started an organization called Girl STEMpowerment and is currently Co-founder and President. Girl STEMpowerment provides free STEM workshops and events to girls in 3rd through 8th grade on topics from chemistry and physics to engineering and computer science  She created this organization to fight the gender gap and to inspire girls to pursue the study of STEM fields.

The Women in Physics group is now led by Abbie Bray and Prof. Carla Figueira De Morisson Faria, to join the mailing list, contact a.bray@ucl.ac.uk