Every year, the eighth of March marks International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate acts of determination by women who have played an extraordinary role to their countries and communities. We had the pleasure and honour to speak to Professor Ada Yonath, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work on the structure and function of the ribosome.
She was the first woman from the Middle East to win a Nobel Prize in the sciences, the first and only Israeli woman to win the Nobel Prize to date, and the first woman in 45 years to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. But she doesn’t want us to think of her any differently than other scientists:
I don’t walk into the lab in the morning thinking, ‘I am a woman, and I will carry out an experiment that will conquer the world.’ I am a scientist, not male or female. A scientist.
Many scientists face early trials and tribulations on their path to science. For Professor Yonath, she did not know being a scientist was a paid profession. She went into science, specifically studying chemistry, simply to fill her curiosity.
We leave you with some stories of inspiring women and their chosen pathway in science.
Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space. She was finishing her studies in physics and astrophysics and looking for a job when she saw NASA’s recruitment for a space program, which she eventually got accepted in 1978. She said she never saw herself as a role model nor set out to change the world, she saw herself as an equal.
Tu Youyou is a Chinese chemist, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria. She was inspired to take up medical research after she contracted tuberculosis at aged 16, studying science can help her seek new medicines for patients. Tu says that every scientist should dream of doing something that can help the world, and should not work for fame.
These women did not choose science, science chose them.
Lim Guan Yu