Bethan Foulkes - Subject Advisor
8 March is International Women’s Day. It’s a time to reflect upon and celebrate women’s achievements around the world. Following on from the posters we created highlighting female scientists and how their work links to our specifications, I have continued to educate myself about many inspiring people in STEM. In this blog I’ll highlight five of these pioneering women, the work I’ve learnt about and where they may link into some of our specifications for your teaching.
Patrícia Medici is a conservationist who has dedicated her life to the conservation of the lowland tapir in South America. Patricia and her team have found that the tapir is crucial to the health of vast ecosystems through their diet and subsequent seed dispersal.
Patrícia has had wide success conserving the lowland tapir in Brazil’s Pantanal, Cerrado and Atlantic Forest, and will next expand into the Amazon. In 2020, Patricia won the Gold Award from the Whitley Fund for Nature, which she will use to study and reduce threats to tapirs in the Amazon.
Patrícia’s work could link to the following parts of our specifications:
Katalin Kariko is a biochemist who has spent her career researching the therapeutic possibilities of messenger RNA (mRNA). Research into mRNA was relatively new when Katalin began, and her idea that it could be used to fight disease seemed too radical and risky. Eventually her research led her to discover that mRNA could be implanted into cells and cause the cells to make any protein.
Alongside her co-collaborator Dr Drew Weissman, Katalin invented modified mRNA technology to make it possible for mRNA to reach specific parts of the body and trigger an immune response to fight disease. Katalin’s breakthrough here led to mRNA being safe and effective as a vaccine, including those for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Katalin’s research has links to the following parts of our specifications:
Chien-Shiung Wu was considered one of the top experimental physicists in the world. She joined the Manhattan Project in 1944, helping to develop the process to separate uranium metal into U-235 and U-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion.
After leaving the Manhattan project, Chien-Shiung continued to make significant contributions to experimental physics. She conducted the Wu experiment, which proved that parity is not conserved during beta decay. Chien-Shiung also developed improved Geiger counters for measuring nuclear radiation levels. She won many awards in her lifetime and was the first woman to serve as president of the American Physical Society.
You could include mention of Chien-Shiung in the following areas:
Susan Solomon is known as a leader in atmospheric science. She is most widely known for her theory of the cause of the hole in the Antarctic ozone. Susan also obtained some of the first chemical measurements which showed that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were the cause of the hole. Susan’s research formed part of the basis of the UN Montreal Protocol. This is an international agreement to regulate atmospheric pollution and protect the ozone layer. Susan is currently researching climate change, ozone depletion and the links between them.
Susan’s research is relevant to the following parts of our specs:
Katsuko Saruhashi was a geochemist who developed the first method and tools for measuring carbon dioxide in seawater, called Saruhashi’s table. Katsuko also discovered that the Pacific Ocean releases more carbon dioxide than it absorbs.
Katsuko’s research led her to show evidence of the dangers of radioactive fallout and how far it can travel, particularly in oceans. Her method and research provided critical evidence to cause the US and Soviet Union to agree to end above-ground nuclear testing in 1963.
Katsuko also established the Society of Japanese Women Scientists and the Saruhashi prize. Both were created due to her beliefs that women in science needed to be mentored and encouraged.
We would love to hear about your favourite or most inspirational women scientists. You can comment below, email us at email@example.com, call us on 01223 553998 or follow us on Twitter @OCR_Science. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive email information about our science resources and support.
Bethan joined OCR in April 2019 and is a subject advisor for GCSE Sciences and Applied Science. Before joining OCR, Bethan taught biology to 11–18 year-olds for eight years, and was responsible for planning her school’s biology schemes of learning. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Bethan mentored PGCE students and NQTs in science, and oversaw all the trainees and NQTs within the school as professional tutor. In her spare time she enjoys dressmaking, quilting and many other different crafts.