Skip to content

The International Women and Girls in Science Day is on the 11th of February, and as a young woman in science I would like to share with you stories about female scientists who have inspired me to study Chemistry.

According to data collected from the United Nations, less than 30% of scientific researchers worldwide are women1. As studies have shown, women at a young age, are discouraged from, or become less interested in, entering the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). So unfortunately, women remain underrepresented in Engineering, Computer Science and Physical Science. However, despite challenges of gender discrimination and lack of recognition in the scientific community, countless inspiring women in these fields have made historic contributions to science and helped advance understanding of the world around us. Apparently, only five have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Frances Arnold being the most recent woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in 2018. Although many were not appropriately credited in their own lifetimes, their achievements have helped the development of new generations of female scientists. We all know about the contributions of Marie Curie and Jane Goodall, but there are more women in science that have inspired me to study a STEM subject:

Alice Ball

American chemist Alice Ball was the first woman and first African American to receive a master's from the University of Hawaii and went on to become the university's first female chemistry professor. At just 23 years old, Ball developed a ground-breaking treatment for leprosy.

Rosalind Franklin

British chemist and DNA researcher Rosalind Franklin was the first person to demonstrate the basic dimensions of DNA strands and reveal the molecule was in two matching parts, running in opposite directions.

Dorothy Hodgkin

Dorothy Hodgkin was a British chemist on the cutting edge of X-ray crystallography. In 1964, she became the first and only British woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances."2 She made numerous breakthrough discoveries, including the atomic structure of penicillin, the structure of vitamin B12 and the structure of insulin.

Lise Meitner

Austrian physicist Lise Meitner contributed significant advancements to the field of nuclear physics. She was also the first woman to become a physics professor in Germany.

Tu Youyou

Pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou's discovery of a new malaria treatment has saved millions of lives. Tu studied traditional Chinese and herbal medicines, found a reference in ancient medical texts to using sweet wormwood to treat intermittent fevers (a symptom of malaria).

Sally Ride

NASA astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, serving as a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.

Maria Winkelmann

Maria Winkelmann was a pioneer in German astronomy. In 1902, she became the first woman to discover a new comet.

Chien-Shiung Wu

Chinese-American physicist Chien-Shiung Wu is credited with disproving one of the basic laws of physics, called conservation of parity. Wu's breakthrough research revealed that during the process of radioactive decay, decaying identical nuclear particles didn't always behave symmetrically.

If you aspire to be a pioneering woman in the world of STEM then come along to one of our events to find out about the facilities on our Thornton Science Park campus. You can find out what STEM courses we offer at


1.  United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Fact Sheet No. 51. June 2018
2. MLA style: Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin – Facts. Nobel Media AB 2020. Tue. 11 Feb 2020.

Share this content