Researcher Role Model Inspires Inquisitive Girls

ByLi Yingxue May 28, 2024

There was a lot the girls wanted to know. "Are scientists inherently brilliant?" "Is science a suitable path for girls?" These were the kinds of questions middle school girls asked Chen Siyu, recipient of the 19th China Young Woman Scientist Award and professor at the College of Atmospheric Science, Lanzhou University, when she recently visited and delivered a lecture at No 4 Middle School in Guanghe county, Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province. She also donated 100 popular science books that inspired her during her own youth.

Chen had insisted on traveling from Gansu's capital to speak at middle schools in the province.

"Girls in remote areas deserve equal opportunities to receive popular science education like kids in big cities do," Chen says.

"My teacher once told me I could 'shine onstage', and those words gave me strength. I want to do the same through this program — give strength to more kids and light up their journey in science."

The event was the first stop of the For Girls in Science Empowerment program. With the theme of "Passing the Torch of Science", the program was jointly initiated by L'Oreal China and Sina Yangfan Charity Foundation last month.

The program offers a special opportunity for young students to interact closely with women scientists. Through popular science classes, extracurricular educational resources and visits to scientists' labs, it aims to nurture the interests and aspirations of girls from an early stage.

With three main projects — bringing scientists in, taking students out and sharing knowledge with everyone — the program focuses on ensuring balanced and inclusive popular science education. Its goal is to benefit 100,000 middle school girls in different cities and remote areas nationwide within one year.

Ruan Xiangrong, chairman of Sina Yangfan Charity Foundation, says: "We want to attract more attention to popularize science education, break the stereotypes surrounding girls learning science and working in science, and help more girls to become new bright stars on the stage of science."

Professor Chen Saijuan, of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, acts as a lifelong honorary mentor of the program, leading a tutoring team that includes various China Young Woman Scientist Award winners.

The first pilot event of the "going out" project was held at the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences on April 4, during which time 25 girls from 13 middle schools in Beijing visited the institute.

They explored the beauty of different plants while learning about the institute's century-long history and scientific achievements.

They also toured the smart national botanical garden at the Plant Science Data Center, delving into the Institute of Botany's advancements in plant diversity protection and research, powered by big data.

Meanwhile, Shu Qingyan, a researcher at the institute and head of the paeoniaceae diversity and germ plasm innovation research team, also talked with the girls about such issues as how to innovate and find role models.

Feng Xiaojuan, recipient of the 19th China Young Woman Scientist Award and a researcher at the Institute of Botany, encouraged them to have courage, embrace the spotlight and stand at the forefront of scientific endeavors.

Liu Ziqi, a junior at Beijing No 166 High School, took part in the tour. She had previously participated in research on fungi and plants at school.

This event inspired the 18-year-old, who already has a clear understanding of scientific research.

"The spirit of science is about continuous exploration. Along the way, we will face many difficulties, and some challenges may take a long time to overcome," she says.

Interacting directly with women scientists not only sparks an interest in science, but also fuels curiosity and fosters a strong passion for their endeavors.

Several middle school girls interested in science were invited to participate in the 19th China Young Woman Scientist Award ceremony late last month and had the opportunity to engage with their favorite scientists.

Xie Xinran, a junior at the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China, is passionate about computer science. She spent a year in a lab at Tsinghua University's Department of Computer Science, where she worked with her mentor to develop an artificial intelligence-based app that uses phone photos of the eye to detect glaucoma.

The 17-year-old was deeply inspired by the women scientists at the event, especially Qu Jing, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Zoology. Qu made groundbreaking discoveries on how longevity proteins function, identifying key targets for intervening in human cell aging and the aging rhythm switch.

"Professor Qu can take complex molecular processes and apply them to solve practical problems like coronary heart disease and hypertension, which are common in our daily lives. The way she connects theoretical knowledge with real-world applications is fascinating," Xie says.

Xie aspires to follow in the footsteps of these award-winning scientists. Her plan is to study abroad for her PhD or postdoctoral research and then return to China to continue her work.


(Source: China Daily)


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