Year of the WINS (Women in Science)
The cry for women in science has been strong throughout the new generation. At universities, scholarships encouraging women to pursue careers in science are popping up everywhere, and are immediately competitive from the strong inspiration felt by young women everywhere to approach the subject. Even with these pushes, however, the gender gap for studying the sciences is still very large. Many engineering schools are still disproportionately male and there is no equal representation of women in upcoming fields where more and more brilliant minds are needed in the field of science.
However, this year has been groundbreaking for women in terms of Nobel Prizes in Science. The first major achievement is that of Dr. Donna Strickland for her work on generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses. She co-holds the honor with her colleague on the project, Gerard Morou, and another physicist Arthur Ashkin. According to BBC News, she is the third-ever woman to hold the Nobel Prize in Physics and is the first to woman to receive the honor in the last 55 years of the organization offering the title. The Canadian physicist was honored to receive the prize for her fascinating and groundbreaking work on lasers, as her joint work with Dr. Morou has produced the shortest and most intense laser yet.
In the field of chemistry, Dr. Frances Arnold was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her revolutionary work on directed evolution of enzymes. She shares the prize with two other scientists: George P. Smith and Gregory P. Winter for their work on directed evolution as well. Dr. Arnold has several awards and is a highly accoladed biochemical engineer. She has even personally received recognition from President Barack Obama with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2013. According to the New York Times, she is the fifth women ever to hold the honor in the field of chemistry. While she initially faced some backlash for her work and approach to her research, she proved them wrong by discovering something truly beautiful with her biochemical approach.
While it is surprising to some that Dr. Strickland is the third woman to be awarded the honor and Dr. Arnold as the fifth in her field, it is actually quite uncommon for young women to choose to study and go into fields such as physics, often feeling discouraged or intimidated early on in their academic careers. When it is men that are often already in research labs and considered to be nerdy, a women has to face an additional psychological barrier to pursuing her studies and research herself. We often find ourselves few in numbers at laboratories, field sites, and more. Not only are we few in labs, but research careers can often be very demanding. While some hold the prejudice that it is difficult to be married to your work and have a family, women are proving more and more that they are capable of this in many fields, and it is high time we prove that we can in science.