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Women in science, innovate in science

On the UN's International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we hear from young researchers at Warwick and ask them about their hopes for their research and the importance of equality in their chosen field.
Dr Erin Greaves is Assistant Professor in the Biomedical Sciences Division of Warwick Medical School.

Erin GreavesI am carrying out research into Endometriosis, a common, chronic disorder which results in the growth of uterine lining (endometrium) outside the uterus, usually within the pelvic cavity, as ‘endometriosis lesions’. Endometriosis can cause chronic, debilitating pelvic pain and infertility and it affects around 10% of women of reproductive age – an estimated 190 million women worldwide. Despite being such a common disorder with significant impacts on health related quality of life, there are very limited treatments available. My research involves trying to unravel the mechanisms of the disease, and find potential therapeutic targets for this complex disorder.

It is shocking that women’s diseases like endometriosis have taken a back seat in research for so long. To achieve a healthy and balanced society, women should be represented in medical research – both in terms of the workforce and the research area. That is why it is important that girls are shown that science is a career option equally available to them and they could be the one to solve a problem affecting millions of women around the world.”

Evé Wheeler-Jones is a PhD researcher working on battery charging technologies at WMG.

Eve Wheeler-JonesThe need for batteries has never been so present in our lives. With the demand to switch to a greener life style, batteries are needed in our transport, as well as our grid system and we cannot forget our love for technology, which is, fuelled again by batteries. Clearly, each of these applications demands something different from our energy storage devices, whether that is high power, long lifetime or even fast charging. My research is to develop and create the materials, which will allow batteries to charge quickly. Materials synthesis and analysis is on the forefront of creating batteries for different applications. The structure of these materials is key in allowing the battery to exhibit different properties and therefore perform in the way you would desire. This means that vast amount of research has to go into each different part of the battery, to optimise and create something to work brilliantly.

Such a big task is not easy. I hope that my research can act as a piece to the puzzle to move forward fast charging batteries so we can move toward a greener future, but it all relies on a diverse team to bring together ideas and implement them. Science is great place of learning and creativity, and also a place for all types of people. Diversity enhances science as it brings so many different ideas to the table, this is why it’s so important for young women to embrace science and, in turn, to be welcomed with open arms.

Dr Heather Cegla is senior research fellow and UKRI Future Leader Fellow in Warwick’s Astrophysics research group.

Dr Heather CeglaAre we alone in the Universe? The goal of my research is to overcome the remaining hurdles on the quest to answer this age-old question. Since the discovery of extra-solar planets in the 1990s, we have found thousands more, yet the confirmation of a true Earth-twin still evades us. It is our present knowledge of Sun-like stars that poses the fundamental limitation on this quest; the surfaces of such stars are engulfed with boiling plasma, which generates inhomogeneities and manifests as ‘noise’ that completely swamps the signal from Earth-like planets. To attack this problem, my research group is taking a two-pronged approach: with state-of-the-art 3D simulations and using transiting planets to empirically probe stellar surfaces. Our ultimate aim is to create a pathway to the confirmation and characterisation of habitable alien worlds.

Marginalised genders, including those who identify as women, and other under-represented individuals are as inherently capable and excellent scientists as their more represented peers. It is critical we breakdown the current barriers to pursuing a career in STEM. Not only do we have a moral imperative to do this, but increasing diversity in science leads to greater creativity and innovation; it really is a win-win.

Dr Nicole Robb is an Assistant Professor and Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the Warwick Medical School.

Dr Nicole RobbViruses cause many human, animal and plant diseases, some of which can result in a considerable number of deaths as well as having severe economic impacts worldwide. In my research group we use a combination of biology and physics to study how viruses replicate and interact with host cells. During the COVID-19 pandemic we have concentrated on developing novel rapid diagnostic tests that can detect common respiratory viruses such as coronaviruses and influenza. I hope my research will allow us to better understand the basic biology of viruses and lead to new ways to diagnose and combat viral disease.

I’m a huge believer in equality and diversity in science. Because our research is at the interface of two different fields I have had the good fortune to work and interact with a wide range of people from very diverse backgrounds. I’m also really lucky to hold a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowship, which has allowed me to start my own research group while balancing my career with childcare responsibilities. Schemes like this that are designed to provide flexibility are hugely important for science as they promote equal opportunities for everyone.”

Rosanne Maguire is a PhD researcher at Warwick’s Crop Centre, part of the Department of Life Sciences.

Rosanne MaguireMy research is part of the common bean breeding programme at Warwick Crop Centre, where we are using traditional breeding methods to adapt common bean so that it can be grown here in the UK. The overall goal is to provide consumers with regional healthy food choices, and simultaneously provide growers with a novel, short season legume crop that can be added in rotation between cereals and field grown vegetables.

Dried common beans are currently imported to the UK, but we have been selecting distinctive varieties adapted to our conditions that are versatile, delicious ingredients suitable for home cooking. My research has supported the breeding work by investigating natural sources of disease resistance, as well as researching consumer behaviour and attitudes towards beans.


11 February 2021

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