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IYC and Women in Chemistry

On Tuesday, January 18, CHF hosted a group of women chemists for breakfast. There were great discussions and we had the opportunity to chat through Skype with some women at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Most importantly, these women braved sheets of ice that covered the Philly sidewalks to join in. Why does it matter that we had breakfast last Tuesday? It matters because women chemists all around the world were doing the same thing, Sharing a Chemical Moment in Time.

This “global chemical handshake”  worked perfectly. For weeks ahead of the event, I was in contact with women all over the United States and the event organizer in Australia. In the two days before the breakfast event I got emails from Canada, England, Poland,  Mauritius, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. Women all around the world regardless of time zone and country were joined by this one day-long event.

This pre-kickoff event provided an opportunity to discuss one the IYC themes: women in chemistry. (2011 marks the one hundredth anniversary of Marie Curie’s Nobel Prize in chemistry.) During the breakfast discussion of current issues women face as chemists, I was reminded of a recent Nature article that asked ten well respected chemists who their inspiration was. Of the ten chemists, three were women: Laura Kiessling, Karen Wooley, and Joanna Aizenberg. However, only one woman was mentioned as an inspirational figure—Marie Curie. 

Regardless of how inspirational Marie Curie is, throughout this year we should strive to find additional inspirational women chemists who represent the chemistry of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. We should not forget Marie Curie, but we should enhance our image. Efforts like CHF's Women in Chemistry Oral History Project strive to do just that.

Posted In: History | Policy

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