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Women in Science

In historical context, women were discouraged from pursuing careers in science due to societal norms, lack of access to education, and gender biases. Despite of these obstacles, several extraordinary women have defied the odds and made major contributions to various scientific fields. From Ada Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer, to Rosalind Franklin, whose work was crucial to the discovery of DNA's structure, women have left a mark on the scientific landscape.

There is one significant woman figure in the history of science, Marie Curie, who said “Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood”. Her groundbreaking research on radioactivity revolutionized the field of physics and chemistry. Alongside her husband, Pierre Curie, she discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium, laying the groundwork for future advancements in nuclear physics and medicine. Radium has led to the development of new treatments for cancer, saving countless lives and shaping the course of modern medicine. She was a first woman to win a noble prize and the only person to win twice, one in physics in 1903, and another in chemistry in 1911. Rejection from the University for being a woman, struggling for the approval of research grants for the same reason, and other challenges and obstacles, she has become an inspiration to everyone, especially, women in science. Her passion has also managed to prove the rest of the world that science has no boundaries.


A very short example from India, a woman named Mrs. Sudha Murthy, born in 1950, has received a  Padma Shree award in 2006 and a Padma Bhusan award in 2023, which is the third highest civilian award in India. During her undergraduate studies at KLM Technological University, where there were no toilets for women (because she was the only one in the class) and she used to walk  few kilometers to empty her bladder. She has set an example for many women in current India to strive and achieve things that might seem impossible.


But around the world, the things have changed and in the present scenario, there are fields in which women are revolutionizing and leading the frontiers in various disciplines of sciences, like astronomy, microbiology, engineering, etc. Be part of a research group that is interactive and welcoming in nature, despite of someone’s nationality, color, or language, provides a great environment for personal and professional development. There have been many instances, where current culture, might have been the dream for Marie Curie and many other great women associated with science. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of gender diversity in science and the efforts of countless universities to fill in the gender gap in science, with women significantly represented in Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is paving path for future generations.


Recently there are women being awarded various notable prizes including noble prize, which is an aftermath of past couple of decades. In 2023, there were two noble prizes, one in physics and one in physiology or medicine, been awarded to women. By the current trend of women getting engaged in STEM, which is around 27% from 8% in 1970 in the US alone, suggests that in the future there would be more awards and notable lectures delivered in great universities and off course more minds would be involved in solving the unsolved mysteries of the universe.


The key quotes upon which science should be practised are, "Imagination is more important than knowledge”, by Albert Einstein, “Cultivation of mind should be the ultimate aim of human existence” by Dr. B R Ambedkar and “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible”, by Richard Feynmann. But, the most outstanding  quote dedicated to the seniors in our own research fields is “We stand on the shoulders of giants” by Sir Issac Newton.


So, be curious, push the frontiers in science, prove the giants wrong by standing on their shoulders and visit Stockholm, Sweden for the most prestigious award in Science.

 

By Rutuja Nandlal Meshram


References

  • Quinn, Susan. Marie Curie: A Life. Da Capo Press, 1996

  •  Murthy, Sudha. "Wise and Otherwise: A Salute to Life." Penguin Books India, 2006.

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