3.2 Women in nanoscience – Annual Report 2017

This year 19 women from the MacDiarmid Institute travelled to seven regional centres to tell their personal stories of life in science. They gave their own perspectives on what it is like being a woman in the physical sciences (physics, chemistry or engineering) – an area of science largely populated by men.

Dr Carla Meledandri, who organised the lecture series and spoke at the Dunedin event, said the feedback had been overwhelmingly positive.

“It was great to be able to tell personal stories to wide-ranging audiences. One of the young women in the audience told me afterwards that she felt incredibly relieved that there was obviously no one right way to get into science and academia – that we’d each talked about the different pathways we’d taken into research and that this made her less worried about ‘getting it right’.”

Exit surveys confirmed the positive feedback: 83 percent of attendees rated the lectures ‘excellent’; 95 percent of people said the evening’s lecture had stimulated their interest in nanoscience research; and 82 percent of participants wanted to hear more from the Institute.

Dr Meledandri said the lecture series was a follow up to the very successful Women in Science lecture at the AMN8 conference in February, and that there had been considerable interest in the lectures.

“Despite decades of government effort aimed at getting girls into science, the statistics show that women are still significantly under-represented in the academic career structure, not only in more senior ranks but also at the research student level,” says Dr Meledandri.

“I’m happy to be able to say that a third of MacDiarmid Institute researchers are women – even at the most senior levels. But while that’s better than usual in these disciplines, it demonstrates the persistent representation gap.

“We know that having positive female scientist role models helps younger women see a future career for themselves as scientists, so we’re extremely pleased to be able to bring some of our female scientists to speak around the country.”

The regional lecture series delivered talks in Tauranga, Napier, Whanganui, Nelson, Oamaru, Wanaka and Dunedin. The lectures were delivered by MacDiarmid researchers Professor Margaret Brimble, Dr Jenny Malmström, Dr Laura Domigan, Dr Catherine Whitby, Dr Gemma Cotton, Professor Alison Downard, Dr Anna Garden, Dr Dagmara Jaskólska, Dr Natalie Plank, Dr Renee Goreham, Ashley Way, Professor Cather Simpson, Dr Michelle Dickinson, Professor Penny Brothers, Professor Sally Brooker and Dr Carla Meledandri.