Where there is science, there is a woman

 

Discover stories featuring women in science

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  • Spotlight on Young Researchers

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Identifying environmental pollutants

Nobody is untouched by environmental chemical pollution, but most are unaware of how they are exposed, what to, and the possible health consequences. With over 350,000 registered chemicals in use, an important first step towards assessing their environmental impacts is to make chemical information more machine-readable and open. Environmental Cheminformatics is on the case.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Understanding drug resistance in skin cancer

Melanoma is a rare type of skin cancer, but it is the deadliest type – and incidence is on the rise. Metastatic melanoma has seen a rapid emergence in drug resistance: After a few months, treatment stops working and tumours begin to grow again. Molecular biologists are working to understand why this happens.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Towards predicting ageing-related diseases

A rapid increase in both life expectancy and global population size has led to a rise in the prevalence of chronic ageing-associated diseases. Brain and heart age-associated diseases including hypertension, stroke, heart failure, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are leading causes of mortality and disability worldwide. Researchers are working on much-needed ways to predict these diseases.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: How is scientific quality fostered by research collaboration?

In the last decades, how research is conducted has been profoundly changed by ICT, and there has also been a shift from the ‘sole genius’ towards teamwork and especially interdisciplinarity: Today, millions of researchers worldwide collaborate across organisational, disciplinary, and cultural boundaries, extending the possibilities of new scientific discovery. This, and the associated data, has paved the way for the scientific field Science of Science, where one key question is understanding exactly how scientific quality is fostered by research collaboration.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Turning up the heat on solar absorbers

Using solar absorbers for collection and storage of heat from the sun is an environmentally friendly way to generate heat, yet only 16% of heating is generated from renewable energy. Material scientists are looking for ways to boost this number by making the solar absorber coatings more efficient.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: The role a gene plays in neurodegeneration and cancer

Neurogenerative diseases and cancer affect millions of people worldwide, especially people over 60. While advances in diagnosis and treatment have been made, there are still many open questions on the path to better treatment and earlier diagnosis. Translational neuroscientist Pauline Mencke studies a gene that is involved both in Parkinson’s disease and the brain cancer Glioblastoma multiforme.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Empowering critical digital humanities practice

Digitisation has had a significant impact on humanities research: not only has it changed how many scholars conduct their research, it has also led to completely new fields of research, such as digital humanities, a highly interdisciplinary science. Linguist Lorella Viola is interested in how software can enable critical digital humanities practice.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: A gas sensor powered by natural light

Many of the things we furnish our homes and office with emit gases that we are oblivious to inhaling. As eliminating these items from our lives is unrealistic, science wants to understand that which we cannot eliminate, thus more effective sensors are needed. Material scientist Rutuja Bhusari combines materials at nanoscale to create a gas sensor powered by nature.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: A hazelnut quality forecasting system

Can we predict the likelihood of a hazelnut tree becoming sick? Or what quality defects, and in what percentage, will be present in the final harvest? Science could soon make this possible, thanks to a hazelnut quality forecasting system based on a combination of machine learning and simulation models.

The Science of Science: understanding what makes [excellent] science

The digital transition of society over the last decades has brought with it a wealth of data about research – on funding, scientific outputs, collaborations, mobility, career trajectories and much more. Simultaneously, a new branch of science has emerged: the Science of Science. An interdisciplinary topic by nature, the field of research can be approached from many perspectives. We introduce the topic from the perspective of a funder, an economist, and a sociologist.

Better schooling to prevent dementia 70 years later

Anja Leist wants to find out how to resist the decline of our cognitive abilities in old age. Her international research has already achieved a first result: improving education helps prevent problems occurring decades later.

It is not only money that is distributed unequally

PEARL grantee Prof. Conchita D’Ambrosio has developed new methods to paint a detailed picture of social inequality.

Gender stereotypes and how they are questioned in a playful and scientifically sound way with the help of a board game

If you want to reduce gender stereotypes in society, you must first make people aware of them. LISER researcher Carole Blond-Hanten has visited children’s and youth institutions to do this. In her luggage: a nine square metre board game.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Understanding how language manifests in the brain

At KU Leuven, Luxembourg national Jill Kries is part of a research team driven by understanding how cognition and brain structure develop over time in language-related disorders and how this knowledge can be applied in a clinical or educational setting. We take a closer look at the work of the young team.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Hameeda Jagalur Basheer

While solar panels appear on more and more rooftops, researchers are still developing ways to boost their efficiency. As part of her PhD at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Indian national Hameeda Jagalur Basheer is developing alternative materials that can help capture the sunlight better and improve efficiency of solar panels.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Yamila Mariel Omar

As part of her Industrial Fellowship – a collaboration between the University of Luxembourg and company Husky – PhD candidate Yamila Mariel Omar helps industry to monetize their proprietary data by means of big data analytics. We speak to the Argentinian national who also became a mother during her PhD.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Bella Tsachidou

Excessive use of fertilisers in agriculture has led to nitrogen pollution, and calls for bio substitutes are getting louder. PhD candidate Bella Tsachidou from Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) gathers scientific evidence on the benefits of biogas residues and their suitability as biofertilisers, while providing support for the modification of nitrogen-policies on European and global level.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Understanding brain mechanisms behind eating disorders

Eating disorders affect up to 5% of people. At the University of Luxembourg, Dr Annika Lutz and Lynn Erpelding study the brain mechanisms that help form body image, and want to understand how eating disorders develop. Using a multidimensional approach, the team’s ultimate goal is to improve treatment for people suffering from eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Nathasia Mudiwa Muwanigwa

Growing up in Botswana and Zimbabwe, Nathasia Mudiwa Muwanigwa did not see science as a career option. Fast forward a few years: Nathasia is studying Parkinson’s disease as part of her PhD at the LCSB at the University of Luxembourg, and has co-founded a STEM initiative that was featured in Forbes.

Science has no gender: A telecommunications engineer

Science has no gender, but it is an undeniable issue that the gender of scientists can have an impact on the development of their scientific career. We find ourselves making assumptions about gender, based on the scientific domain, or the level of seniority. Do you assume the gender of this scientist based on their profession, or maybe based on their experiences? We present: A scientist in the field of telecommunications engineering.

Science has no gender: A computer scientist

Science has no gender, but gender bias is an undeniable issue and can have an effect on the development of a scientific career. We find ourselves making assumptions about gender, based on the scientific domain, or the level of seniority. Do you assume the gender of this scientist based on their profession, or maybe based on their experiences? We present: A scientist in the field of computer science.

Science has no gender: A mathematician

Science has no gender, but it is an undeniable issue that the gender of scientists can have an impact on the development of their scientific career. We find ourselves making assumptions about gender, based on the scientific domain, or the level of seniority. Can you tell the gender of this scientist based on their profession, or maybe based on their experiences? We present: A scientist in the field of mathematics.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Noémie Catherine Engel

Noémie Catherine Engel has just begun her researcher journey – and she has found her niche already: As part of her AFR PhD at the University of Bath, the Luxembourg national investigates the evolution of sex role traits in a small shorebird species in Cape Verde.

Mobility Era: Researcher turns PhD thesis into a game

When Dr. Irina Burlacu completed her AFR PhD thesis on the tax and benefit system for cross border workers in Belgium and Luxembourg, she asked herself: Now that I have spent years on this research, how can I best communicate it? The answer: translating the research outcome into a board game combining income and tax levels from 41 countries with country knowledge – ‘Mobility Era: Play Your Taxes!’.

“Encountering some of the most brilliant minds on the planet”: Interview with Hannah Rana

For each Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, the FNR runs a Call for promising young researchers with a connection to Luxembourg to attend. For the 2019 Lindau Meeting, dedicated to physics, Hannah Rana, PhD candidate in Space Cryogenics at Oxford University had this rare opportunity. Hannah shares her highlights – from speaking to all 39 Nobel Laureates in attendance, including Donna Strickland; realising the importance of science communication; feeling inspired, and much more.

INTERnational cooperation: A virtual personal assistant for people affected by dementia

The number of people affected by dementia is steeply rising and new, innovative ways of assistive care are needed. Stëftung Hëllef Doheem (SHD) – the largest network of assistance and home care in Luxembourg – is involved in an international project that uses an innovative technology approach to assist people with cognitive problems with daily tasks, helping them live independently for longer.

Using data from space to improve maritime surveillance

Splitting her time between the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and company LuxSpace as part of an Industrial Fellowship, Postdoc Ramona Pelich uses data from earth observation satellites to improve maritime surveillance and flood hazard monitoring.

Spotlight On Young Researchers: Henderika de Vries

Are creative people better at regulating emotions, and are there cultural differences? This is one of the questions Henderika (Herie) de Vries wants to answer. Having already discovered that cultural differences impact the creative potential of children, the Dutch-Luxembourgish national hopes to understand more aspects of how our cultural circumstances can influence our capacity for creative thinking.

The issue at the heart of EU criminal law: Three models to solve a multifaceted problem

A conflict often arises whenever several states simultaneously claim jurisdiction to prosecute criminal offences for themselves. Together with research colleagues, jurist Katalin Ligeti has found a way out of this dilemma.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Anjali Sharma

In school, we are taught three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas. The focus of University of Luxembourg PhD candidate Anjali Sharma’s research lies between solid and liquid: liquid crystal. She studies them in unusual shapes that are no larger than the width of a human hair, yet they are considered as large by the scientists of the field. As part of her research, the Indian national got an opportunity for a rare experiment: Taking her research into a zero gravity environment.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Nanotechnology – a future big player in health

Divya Balakrishnan, Dipti Rani and Serena Rollo are women in science working in a field that could have a major impact on how health is managed: In the group of FNR ATTRACT Fellow César Pascual García at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), the team works on developing sensors for biochemical applications focusing on medicine.

Corpornation: Forging a modern society

Sparked by a collection of over 2,000 images, two projects led by Prof Karin Priem from the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH) reflect on the industrial heritage and societal impact of major Luxembourg-based steel and iron producing company ARBED, examining the social and educational initiatives of the company and how it helped shape Luxembourg’s national and international identity in a time of industrialisation.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Silvia Girardi

Silvia Girardi is a sociologist with an interest in studying policies that aim to contrast poverty. As part of her joint PhD at Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) and KU Leuven, the Italian national looks at the social policies that support low-income households in Luxembourg, taking the perspectives of the citizens on the receiving end, and the social workers involved in implementation.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Carole Lara Veiga de Sousa

Why can our bodies defend itself against some diseases but not others? This is something Carole Lara Veiga de Sousa has always been eager to understand. In the framework of her PhD at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) and Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), the Portuguese national took at closer look at the microglial cells – immune cells in the central nervous system – and what impact they have on the brain’s ability to fend of infections.

How inequality and economic insecurity affect individual well-being

Economist Prof Conchita d’Ambrosio has been FNR PEARL Chair at the University of Luxembourg since 2013, where she leads a team of scientists investigating how different factors determine individual and social well-being.

Triggered by fever: Enzyme mutation plays key role in novel fatal neurological disorder in children

An international team of researchers, including scientists from the University of Luxembourg’s LCSB, have identified the genetic cause of a severe novel childhood disease. The findings provide a solid basis for investigations into therapeutic strategies that could delay or prevent the onset of this rare, but deadly disease.

FNR ATTRACT Fellows – the people behind the science: Anne Grünewald

An interplay of people connected via Parkinson’s disease and mitochondria led Prof Dr Anne Grünewald to Luxembourg, where she started her FNR ATTRACT Fellowship at the LCSB at the University of Luxembourg in 2016. We spoke to the German national about how she fell in love with mitochondria; the importance of team spirit; interdisciplinarity and what it was like to be a full-time PI with a new-born at home and a husband abroad.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Dominique Santana

After completing her master’s degree, Luxembourg national Dominique Santana decided to spend time in her mother’s birth country Brazil. While there, she became intrigued by Brazil’s communities of Luxembourgish nationals and wanted to investigate further. Now in the first year of her AFR PhD at the C²DH at the University of Luxembourg, Dominique is examining the paths of Luxembourgers who emigrated to Brazil from 1920 – 1965, which has already rekindled old friendships.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Ramona Pelich

Ramona Pelich uses data from satellites in space to improve maritime surveillance and flood hazard monitoring. Splitting her time between the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and the company LuxSpace as part of her AFR-PPP Postdoc, the Romanian national’s work has already found direct application when flood maps she co-developed were used in the aftermath of destructive 2017 hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Anna Monzel

Anna Monzel cites her thirst for new knowledge and discoveries as a key contributor in her choosing to follow the path of science. Drawn to Luxembourg because of its interdisciplinary approach, the German national developed a 3D model of the human midbrain for her PhD at the LCSB at the University of Luxembourg – which earned her a Lush Young Researcher Prize.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Laurie Maldonado

Laurie Maldonado’s research focuses on single-parent families. After suddenly becoming a single parent herself, she experienced first-hand how quickly single-parent families can fall into poverty in the United States, not knowing if she could continue her research. Then Laurie secured an AFR PhD grant, conducting her research at the LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg and at UCLA. A few years and a successful PhD defence later, we talked with Laurie about her journey and her close-to-home research.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Katharina Baum

When Katharina Baum was a teenager, her mother took her to a presentation about the Human Genome Project. Fascinated, she stood up and asked what she would have to do to be able to study genes. Some years and a degree in mathematics later, the German national and mother of two children now splits her time between Luxembourg and Berlin as part of her two postdocs. In her work at the Luxembourg Institute of Health, Katharina combines computer science, maths and biology to identify faulty regulatory mechanisms in cancerous cells.

LALA: An innovative programme to help children learn to read

Almost half of the 5,000 children to start pre-school in Luxembourg each year struggle to learn to read, failing to reach the minimum national reading standard by age nine, with 10 percent going on to develop severe reading difficulties. In an innovative approach to help the children before they fail, a University of Luxembourg team led by psychologist Dr Pascale Engel de Abreu has developed the pre-literacy programme ‘LALA – Lauter lëschteg Lauter’, tested with over 200 preschool children and showing positive results.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Amy Parrish

During her Master’s studies, Amy Parrish found her passion for research with a clinical aspect. Having come from London to Luxembourg to pursue her AFR PhD at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) in the research group of Mahesh Desai, the American national studies the bacteria that inhabit our gut, to shed light on the development of diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

Research trends: Deep learning & 3D face recognition – be your own passport

As part of a new series, the FNR speaks to five experts about research trends in their domain. Deep learning has allowed scientists to make computers function in a way much closer to how humans think than ever before: Djamila Aouada from the SnT at the University of Luxembourg explains how deep learning works, and her efforts to make it 3D capable.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Eva Lagunas

Eva Lagunas has always been curious about technology, even building her own makeshift smartphone when she was a child. A couple of degrees later, the Spanish national set her sights on coming to Luxembourg, family in tow, to take up a Postdoc position at the University of Luxembourg’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT). Now, she feels lucky to spend her time researching satellite communications in the 5G era.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Maria Pires Pacheco

Maria Pires Pacheco is a problem solver with a fondness for coding, who was always drawn to the scientist in a group of heroes, rather than the classic hero. During her AFR PhD, the Luxembourg national worked on building tools that help simulate the metabolism of a cell, tools she applied to cancer research during her postdoc.

Research trends: Tandem solar cells – two-packs that reach new efficiency records

As part of a new series, the FNR speaks to five experts about research trends in their domain. A key research question for solar cell scientists is how to make the cells more efficient. Prof Dr Susanne Siebentritt from the University of Luxembourg explains how thin-film tandem solar cells could play a role in the solution.

FNR ATTRACT Fellows – the people behind the science: Ines Thiele

Prof Ines Thiele was still in high school when she fell in love with genetics, soon followed by a passion for systems biology and especially programming. After research stays in the US and Iceland, she came to Luxembourg where she and her team work on a virtual representation of human metabolism. We spoke to the German national and ERC grantee about how she considers science a hobby, how she juggles family and career, and her goals.

Opinion: Gender balance in science and research

What can be done do increase the share of women in STEM careers, and why is there such a disparity? In this opinion piece, FNR Secretary General Marc Schiltz delves into the issue of gender inequality in science and research and explains a cultural shift is needed.   

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Xianqing Mao

Xianqing Mao comes from a family of professors and doctors and thus has always had a natural interest in science. The Chinese national completed a medical degree, but felt she still had unanswered questions, so she decided to go abroad and took a leap into biomedical research. After stays in France, the UK, the United States and Belgium, Xianqing is now transitioning from junior to senior researcher at the Luxembourg Institute of Health, where she has already been involved in several projects investigating cancer progression.

ATTRACT: The female perspective

Ulrike Kohl, who heads up the ATTRACT programme, spoke to Ines Thiele and Anne Grünewald – the only female FNR ATTRACT Fellows – about the challenges they faced, and what they think can be done to make the programme more attractive to women, such as offering more support for spouses/partners also working in research.

Women in science and engineering in Luxembourg: what is the lay of the land?

In early 2017, the FNR helped organise an exhibition and colloquium surrounding the topic of ‘WiSE Women’ – women in science and engineering in Luxembourg. Following the colloquium, a report has now been compiled summarising the key issues and recommendations surrounding gender balance in research in Luxembourg. The FNR’s Michele Weber explains the situation, and what the FNR can do to improve it.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Svenja Bourone

Svenja Bourone is a chemist who has always had a fascination for natural sciences. During her master studies at RWTH Aachen, she became captivated by functional nanomaterials and as chance would have it, a doctoral position opened up in just that field. During her AFR PhD, Svenja developed a new protocol to help with the synthesisation of gold nanoparticles, which she is now putting to use in her work as a Postdoc. The Luxembourg national has a strong desire to return home to the Grand Duchy to continue her work on nanomaterials.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Kacy Greenhalgh

Kacy Greenhalgh has always had an affectation for medicine and health, and how health can be influenced by dietary habits. During her Master studies, the Luxembourg-American national was introduced to FNR ATTRACT Fellow Paul Wilmes and the ‘gut on a chip’, HuMiX. Fascinated by its potential, and how it could be used to study the relation between diet and health, Kacy’s curiosity led her straight to an AFR PhD at the LCSB at the University of Luxembourg.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Anna Schleimer

In high school, Anna Schleimer thought everything there was to know in science was already known. When she discovered how many unanswered questions there still are, curiosity drove her to become a researcher. The Luxembourg national is now in the 1st year of her AFR PhD, in what is not your most common topic: As a marine biologist, Anna studies fin whales as part of her joint PhD at University of Groningen and University of St Andrews.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Anna Scaini

Anna Scaini’s appetite for becoming a researcher was stirred at University, stemming from a desire to ‘save’ the last natural river in Europe, which runs close to her home town and causes dangerous local flooding. The Italian national is taking the first step towards pursuing her goal as she prepares to complete her PhD thesis in Hydrology at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Nina Hentzen

Nina Hentzen, an organic chemist working on the chemical synthesis of collagen, is fascinated by research at the interface of chemistry and biology. The Luxembourg national is in the second year of her AFR PhD at ETH Zürich – and has just been selected to attend the renowned 2017 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.

Women in Science: Simone Niclou, oncologist

Early in 2017, a small exhibition in Luxembourg City highlighted a selection of ‘WiSE – Women in Science and Engineering’. Here we introduce one of the featured scientists, LIH’s Simone Niclou, oncologist and coordinator of CANBIO, one of the 11 Doctoral Training Units funded through the FNR’s PRIDE programme.

Women in Science: Pascale Engel de Abreu, Psychologist

In early 2017, a small exhibition in Luxembourg City highlighted a selection of ‘WiSE – Women in Science and Engineering’. Here we introduce FNR Award winner Pascale Engel de Abreu, a Psychologist who studies cognitive development of multilingual children at the University of Luxembourg and is featured in the exhibition.

Women in Science: Mahulena Hofmann, SES Chair in Satellite Communications and Media Law

In early 2017, a small exhibition in Luxembourg City highlighted a selection of ‘WiSE – Women in Science and Engineering’. Here we introduce featured scientist Professor Mahulena Hofmann, SES Chair in Satellite Communications and Media Law at the University of Luxembourg.

Women in Science: Conchita D’Ambrosio, FNR PEARL Chair

In early 2017, a small exhibition in Luxembourg City highlighted a selection of ‘WiSE – Women in Science and Engineering’. Here we introduce FNR PEARL Chair Conchita D’Ambrosio, economics Professor at the University of Luxembourg, who is also featured in the exhibition.

CORE Spotlight: How do eating disorders develop?

How do eating disorders develop? And how can they be researched? We spoke to psychologist Annika Lutz about the current research into a widespread problem.

Luxembourg researchers develop computer models for hundreds of bacterial strains

A research team at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg has taken an important step in modelling the complexity of the human gut’s bacterial communities – the microbiome – on the computer. The project, published in Nature Biotechnology, is an example of a study supported by multiple FNR instruments, namely AFR, ATTRACT, CORE and PoC.

Culture contact: Do we see it as opportunity or threat?

If there is one country in the world that can call itself multicultural, it must be Luxembourg. Dr Elke Murdock from the University of Luxembourg has been studying the ‘natural multicultural laboratory’ Luxembourg since 2010 and has just published a book focusing on the varying experiences of culture contact in this multicultural context.

Women in Science: Claudine Kirsch, from primary school teacher to Associate Professor

In early 2017, a small exhibition in Luxembourg City highlighted a selection of ‘WiSE – Women in Science and Engineering’. Here we introduce featured researcher Dr Claudine Kirsch, educationalist in languages at the University of Luxembourg and Principal Investigator on a recently-launched project funded by the FNR’s CORE programme.

How does public research in Luxembourg measure up in terms of gender balance? What is being done to support and inspire a new generation of women in science? We delve into the situation in the Grand Duchy.

It is hard to get around the word ‘inequality’ when speaking about women in science. In Luxembourg, a general trend in academia is reflected: The gender balance is nearly there in the beginning of the career, then the scales shift dramatically, and the proportion of women decreases on each career level.

According to the latest SHE figures, [2018, published by European Commission], Luxembourg ranks below EU average in the number of female PhD graduates at 40.2% (EU average: 47.9%). As we move up the ranks, the female representation dwindles further: Women make up just over 34% of Associate Professor-level academic staff. Cut this number in half to 17.7% and we have the proportion of women at Full Professor level (EU average: 23.7%). The SHE figures report highlights that it is more difficult for women in most countries to climb the academic ranks, and that significantly fewer women achieve Full Professor status during their career than their male peers. The reasons are manifold, and it is undeniable that many things need to change to even out these numbers.

In addition to being underrepresented in numbers – or because of this – it is common for female scientists to experience bias in their career: Having to prove themselves more and to work harder to secure the same opportunities as their male peers, being disproportionately assigned teaching, feeling ‘left out’ after becoming a parent. In fields where women are the clear minority – such as engineering, maths, ICT and material sciences, this tends to ring particularly true. On this topic, discover the FNR series ‘Science has no gender‘.

Supported by an FNR PSP-Classic grant, Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) researcher Carole Blond-Hanten educates children and young people on gender stereotypes in a scientifically sound way with the help of a board game.

What is being done: time to force a change

To tackle the inequality on a large level, the EU Commission has announced an equality plan for the Horizon Europe programme (successor to Horizon 2020): every public body, research center or higher education institution must have an equality plan in place to access the Framework Programme: No plan, no funding.

The European Research Council (ERC) has had a Gender Equality Plan in place since 2013, and Science Europe has a practical guide for its member organisations in addressing gender inequality.

Eye on Luxembourg: progress is coming

Luxembourg also wants to address gender inequality in research: Fostering gender balance, diversity and inclusion is a long, multi-faceted process, but it has begun:

The National Gender Working Group (WG) in Public Research brings together representatives from all four Luxembourg public research institutions as well as the FNR. The four areas of focus: ‘Gender data monitoring’, ‘Gender diversity survey’, as well as ‘Best practices for the recruitment processes’, and ‘Best practices for internal promotion processes’.

The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) has launched an initiative focussing on diversity and inclusion. Sabina Quijano from LIST and member of the WG works on the project and explains the tasks ahead include the creation of a D&I roadmap, the development and implementation of a gender equality plan, the development of measures to be able to offer more inclusive jobs, and sensitisation and training of employees on special topics, such as unconscious bias, or intercultural communication.

The FNR has gender balance requirements in place for its funding programmes RESCOM (speaker balance) and ATTRACT (gender parity in the applications submitted per institution).

Luxembourg’s Ministry for Equality runs the ‘Actions Positives’ programme, which together with employers and employees supports an inclusive economy and an equal society. The voluntary programme supports companies in having their good practices in the workplace certified.

Supporting girls in[to] science

The trend of female underrepresentation, especially in STEM subjects, starts many years before, in school. Luxembourg boasts a wide range of initiatives and outreach activities to make it possible for young people to follow their passion for science, as well as initiatives specifically encouraging girls to get into the traditionally male dominated subjects, such as ICT.

The FNR supports many of these important efforts through its Promoting Science to the Public programmes PSP-Classic and PSP-Flagship, such as:

The Fondation Jeunes Scientifiques Luxembourg (FJSL) promotes natural and social sciences among young people in Luxembourg and provides a platform where they can exhibit their own scientific projects, participate in cultural exchanges and win prestigious awards.

Marking the 50th edition in 2021, the FJSL for example since 1971 (!) organises the annual “Jonk Fuerscher”, a competition for young scientists in Luxembourg.

Winners can subsequently take part in international competitions, such as the European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS). Participants from Luxembourg have already won ten prizes at the EUCYS for the Grand Duchy.

Student Camilla Hurst, for example, submitted a project in 2017 on the role of surface materials in the transmission of germs in schools. In a project with LIST, she was able to show in her analyses that door handles are transmission sites for potentially dangerous germs and that raw pine wood has an antibacterial effect. After winning in Luxembourg – which Camilla Hurst has done no less than three times since 2015 – she presented her findings at the International Science and Engineering Fair 2017 in Los Angeles. She came fourth at this largest pre-university research competition in the world. Camilla has now graduated high school in Luxembourg and studies at the University of Oxford.

The Scienteens Lab – De Labo fir Jonker – is the first research lab for high-school students in Luxembourg. It is an extracurricular learning centre of the University of Luxembourg that offers workshops designed to spark their interest in science, show them the latest trends and technologies in research and supports them in their career choice.

Hands-on experiments, supervised by experienced scientists and teachers from various disciplines, provide the students an insight into scientific research and the day-to-day work in the lab. The workshops address relevant topics in biology, mathematics and physics. Find out more in our video from when Elisabeth John won an FNR Award for the Scienteens Lab in 2015.

Women in Digital Empowerment (WIDE) has received FNR support for initiatives such as Girls in ICT https://wide.lu/

The organisation Women in Digital Empowerment (WIDE) has received FNR support for initiatives such as Girls in ICT, which aims to empower and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of ICTs, ultimately enabling both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector.

Promoting science

The FNR’s Chercheurs à l’école sees researchers visit high schools to talk about their research and life as a scientist. Going for around a decade, this activity gives female scientists the chance to interact directly with girls and normalises the concept of a female scientist – though fewer now than before, many kids still associate men more than women with the word ‘scientist’.

The events Science Festival and Researchers’ Days mainly serve to let children and teenagers experience science hands-on, instilling a sense of curiosity, a must for any scientist to be.

Researchers’ Days. Photos by O. Minaire

Quiz on women and girls in science

On the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, our Science in Society team has published a quiz on women and girls in science – take the challenge on science.lu (German only).

Celebrating women and girls in science

Despite the underrepresentation, there are women in all areas of research in Luxembourg whose contributions to science and whose efforts to push the boundaries of knowledge in their field have played a vital role in the significant development of research in Luxembourg. Discover some of these contributions and efforts in our video and selection of FNR Highlights below.

FNR RESEARCH PROGRAMMES WITH HIGHEST % OF FEMALE RECIPIENTS IN 2020

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% OF AFR PHD GRANTS AWARDED TO WOMEN (2020)
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% OF CORE GRANTS AWARDED TO WOMEN (2020)
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% OF INDUSTRIAL FELLOWSHIPS AWARDED TO WOMEN (2020)

RESEARCH DOMAINS BY FEMALE SHARE OF GRANTS

AFR PhD grants 2008-20
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% OF HUMANITIES & SOCIAL SCIENCES GRANTS
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% OF LIFE SCIENCES & BIOMEDICINE GRANTS
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% OF LAW & ECONOMICS GRANTS
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% OF MATHEMATICS GRANTS
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% OF PHYSICS/MATERIAL SCIENCES GRANTS
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RESEARCH DOMAINS BY FEMALE SHARE OF GRANTS

CORE research project grants 2008-20
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% OF HUMANITIES & SOCIAL SCIENCES GRANTS
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% OF LIFE SCIENCES & BIOMEDICINE GRANTS
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% OF ICT GRANTS
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