sarahkeenihan

Posts Tagged ‘fellowship’

From shadow, into the sun

In March 2017 on March 6, 2017 at 5:30 pm
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Photo thanks to thomasrousing/flickr

Anna: As a researcher, one could complain about a number of things. Grant season in is full flight and there are more and more applications for less and less funding, fake news and hyperbole seems to rule over facts and figures and …did I mention lack of job security?!

As a researcher and woman, one could feel even more pessimistic about the future. As far as dollars go,  NHMRC 2016 funding outcomes highlight the divide between women and men*, there are reduced travel and networking opportunities if you have family commitments and then there is the all-pervasive unconscious bias knocking you back, without you or your colleagues even noticing.

Hidden Figures”, nominated for Best Picture at the recent Academy Awards and based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, reveals the challenges that faced 3 mathematicians working for NASA in the 1950’s and 60’s. They were women and they were African American. The bias wasn’t unconscious or hidden or casual. At this time – in the state of Virginia, and thus NASA’s Langley headquarters –  segregation laws were enforced. The bias was out there in the open, all day, every day. These women had constant social and professional roadblocks just because of the colour of their skin (and gender).

When I saw the film, I immediately thought of someone else who worked away in the shadows and described as “The Dark Lady of DNA” – Rosalind Franklin. She too was a researcher. She too was a woman. She too was a minority (Jewish in an anti-Semitic Britain in the early 1900’s). She too was an inspirational ‘hidden figure’. Here, in discovery of the structure of DNA (for which Watson and Crick won a noble prize).

So as I finalise my 2017 fellowship application in between breastfeeds and childcare pick-ups, I hope I, and many other (probably more deserved) women can step out of the shadows, get funded, do inspirational research and continue to break down the roadblocks.

*Across all funding schemes, applications with a male CIA received almost double the budget as applications with a female CIA 

Day 25. Masterlaureate

In September 2012 on September 6, 2012 at 11:00 am

Imagine a room full of anxious young scientists, recruited to be part of a new reality TV show.

Each episode sees them pitted against each other in tasks based on their laboratory and presentation skills. Week 1 involves extracting DNA from a piece of frozen human spleen and amplifying the particular molecules which code for ABO blood type. Week 2 revolves around reading a poorly-written up, illegible series of chemistry experiments and making sense of the data by creating a graph.

Week 3 is a masterclass. After what seems an eternity, the doors at the back of the lab open, and to gasps of ‘no, it couldn’t be?’ and ‘oh my goodness, it’s him!’, in walks Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt. With rapturous eyes upon him, he delivers a spellbinding presentation describing his life’s work and what makes him tick as a scientist.

I’m being a little silly here of course, but the masterclass-like experience is what a new Fellowship program announced this week is trying to capture. Australia’s top young scientists will have the opportunity to travel to the annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, providing them with an invaluable opportunity to meet and converse with the world’s top scientists, the Nobel Laureates.

The Fellowship is a collaboration between the Australian Academy of Science and the Science and Industry Endowment Fund.

“The Lindau gathering provides a unique forum for scientific and cultural exchange between Nobel Prize winners and scientists at the start of their careers, giving young researchers a chance to meet inspirational role models,”

said the Academy’s Secretary for Science Policy, Professor Bob Williamson.

Unlike the actual TV series on which my spoof was based, the fellowship winners won’t be featured in popular magazines or morning chat shows. But they may have an impact on your life, or that of your children or grandchildren.  As applies to most science, however, for now we don’t know how that will unfold. As a society we must invest and wait.