Female scientists are continuing to spread the spirit of female leadership and empowering more women to pursue careers in STEM.
On African soil, Dr Irene Samy Fahim, is an Assistant Professor at the department of Industrial and Service Engineering and Management at Egypt’s Nile University and the American University in Cairo.
Dr Fahim, in her endeavours to engineer the future of Planet Earth, had recently won a coveted L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Award for her research in manufacturing non-plastic single-use tableware using sugarcane bagasse. Bagasse is the dry, pulpy, fibrous material which remains after crushing sugarcane or sorghum stalks to extract their juice.
She also pioneered a project to manufacture plastic bags from shrimp shells, insulation material from fruit peels and hardwood floor replacements from agricultural waste. Dr Fahim also received the Newton Mosharafa Institutional Link Award two years in succession in collaboration with Nottingham University.
“There is an intrinsic link between educating more girls in science, technology, engineering and math subjects and tackling climate change” – Dr Irene Samy Fahim.
“STEM Education plays a vital role in saving the environment by raising awareness and by teaching individuals’ various ways to protect their natural habitat. It concentrates on reducing carbon emissions, cleaning water sources, fighting pollution, creating systems to recycle solar panels and proposes new fabrication techniques of bioplastics,” she says.
Fellow scientist, Dr Ola Gomaa, is a microbial biotechnology professor at the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority. She is a graduate of the British Council scholarship programme and had published extensive research around the role of microbes in fighting climate change. Her opinion is to enact real change in the STEM talent pipeline, the global community should focus on inclusion.
“As a starting point, schools should invite women in STEM to talk to kids in schools and young people at universities to give them a taste of what it’s like to work in the field,” Gomaa says.
She believes that more women would choose STEM careers if they have more support in order to balance their career with raising a family. “I was lucky enough to have the support of my family who understand my field of work. They helped me with my children so I could take up scholarships and attend conferences which gave me the opportunity to pursue a career and not worry about the time away from home,” she said.
Dr Gomaa managed to attain her dream through various funding and scholarships programmes to continue her research in bioremediation for a net- zero waste and share the outcome of such research with the international scientific community.
With more women excelling in the STEM talent pipeline, the community stands to gain a more diverse, productive workforce and attract a generation of talent which could hold the key to saving Planet Earth.