Women in Science: Elena Corner Piscopia, the First Woman to Graduate

The Italian Elena Lucrezia Corner Pisonia is the first woman in the world to graduate, as she entered her degree in Philosophy from the University of Padua on June 25, 1678. Born in Venice in 1646, Elena was the daughter of Giovanni Battista, that held the part of the alternate most important authority in the Republic of Venice after the Doge.

Since she was a child, Elena had shown a great literacy capability, curiosity, and cleverness, as well as serious fidelity to her studies. Elena enrolled at the University of Padua – one of the most prominent universities in ultramodern Europe- for a degree in Theology. Her university operation was accepted by the directors without any difficulties. Still, she met with the opposition of Gregorio Barbarigo, bishop and cardinal of Padua, as well as chancellor of the university, who was trying to put the Catholic Church doctrine according to which women were allegedly not suitable to perform complex logic.

Without his authorization, Elena couldn’t graduate. Ultimately, the Corner family, the University and Barbarigo, reached a concession and it was agreed that Elena would be awarded a degree in Philosophy rather than Theology.

According to sources of the time, on the day of Elena’s graduation roughly 30’000 people showed up to attend her dissertation. Elena, therefore, became the pride of the University of Padua, and of the Republic of Venice. Her historical significance, however, was only conceded in 1969, when the University of Padua decided to officially certify her as being the first woman in the world to graduate.

Statue of Elena Corner Piscopia

Inside Palazzo del Bo’, the main structure of the University of Padua, her statue is exhibited.

Read more on Italy Magazine.

This article was written by Elisa Bissacco as part of an ongoing series of scientific communications written and curated by BioTrib’s Early Stage Researchers.

She is studying a PhD in Tribological Characteristics of Nanofibrous Electrospun Materials at ETH Zurich.

World AIDS Day – 1st December 2021

December 1st is the annual World AIDS Day, an important event to reflect on the worlds response to AIDS and to recognise efforts to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and improve access to treatment along with HIV prevention.

For information on HIV and where to get tested in the UK please refer to the NHS website. Further information and advice on PrEP can be found at the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Globally, young women are still disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic and struggle to access appropriate care and resources. This also translates to underrepresentation of this marginalised group in research and will be the subject of an upcoming lecture titled ‘Involvement of women living with HIV in research‘ on 8th December 2021.

Involvement of women living with HIV in research lecture – 8th December 2021

Women living with HIV are under-represented in research, yet studies such as the Invisible No Longer project led by Sophia Forum and Terrence Higgins Trust indicate women do want to participate. Meaningful involvement of women living with HIV in research leads to better outcomes, both in upholding the right to participation and in the quality of the research itself. In this presentation, barriers to research participation and how to overcome them will be explored, and strategies to achieve visibility, inclusion and representation of women living with HIV in research will be discussed.

“Visibility and inclusion” involvement of women living with HIV in research

About this event:
Dr Jacqui Stevenson, Freelance Consultant/Researcher; promoting gender equality in the HIV response and in global health

Chair: Prof Richard M Hall, University of Leeds.

12:30 – 13:30, 8th December 2021 – online. Sign up on Eventbrite.

International Day of LGBTQIA+ People in STEM

November 18 is the International Day of LGBTQIA+ People in STEM, an opportunity to celebrate diversity within the BioTrib community and wider STEM fields! In parallel to outputting cutting edge biotribology and medical device research, BioTrib celebrates diversity within our worldwide community by endeavoring to use the resources and influence of BioTrib to advocate for and educate towards equality in STEM.

Inequality and equal representation in STEM is a vastly complex landscape with much progress to still be made – but we are heading in the right direction!  Following the recruitment of Early Stage Researchers, BioTrib will set in motion a dedicated Gender Opportunities Committee to critically identify how BioTrib can best use its network and community to improve inclusivity in STEM as well as engineering research.

BioTrib commits itself to raising awareness and promoting equality in STEM:

  • Gender Equality: Women in STEM are still vastly underrepresented in senior academic positions. Gender disparity grows as research careers progress, only one third of EU researchers are women with less than one quarter in top academic positions [European Commission 2020].
  • Equal Representation: Ethnicity STEM data [RSC, 2020] highlights consistent disparity in BAME degree completion rates, and outcomes, along with reduced retention and career progression in STEM. Presently STEM ethnic minority staff are much less likely to hold senior posts and contracts.
  • LGBTQIA+ in STEM: It is estimated LGBT people are approximately 20% less represented in STEM fields than expected [Cech, 2017]. With nearly 28% of LGBT and 50% of trans staff at least once considering leaving the workplace due to a climate of discrimination [RSC, IOP 2019].

Read more about BioTrib’s commitment to promoting equality.

Pamela Ball: first Jamaican woman to gain the fellowship of The Royal College of Surgeons of England

Pamela Ball, FRCS, source: rcseng.ac.uk 29/10/21

Pamela Ball, a broadly skilled surgical officer mostly operating in Kidderminster and Wordsley in the UK Midlands, is the first Jamaican woman to gain the prestigious fellowship of The Royal College of Surgeons of England.

She was born Pamela Margaret Moody in Kingston, Jamaica. Her father is also a trailblazing Jamaican medic, who after moving to study medicine at King’s College London and in 1919 became the first Jamaican to pass the MRCP exam!

Pamela’s vibrant and varied work history includes beginnings as a house surgeon at Birmingham General Hospital where she trained with ‘… lots of operating, including gall bladders and gastrectomies and so on’ along with developing experience in casualty and orthopaedics.

She then went on to gain the fellowship of The Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1954.

Eventually she settled in Kidderminster as a resident surgical officer, going on to dabble in other highly skilled surgical disciplines including plastic surgery and anaesthetics. She later became a clinical assistant and taking lead within the highly dynamic accident unit in Kidderminster.

Retiring in 1991, she stayed active within the Kidderminster hospital, continuing as a locum for a further two years and helping the League of Friends of Kidderminster Hospital to raise funds for new equipment, eventually becoming the leagues president in 2006.

Celebrating a highly accomplished life, Pamela Ball died of bone marrow cancer in September 2019, just after receiving an MBE for her services to the NHS. She was 92.

Read the original article: https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/library-and-publications/library/blog/pamela-ball/

Women living with HIV – carrying the burden of the pandemic.

Source: Sophia Forum – We are still here – accessed 25-10-21

All groups affected by HIV should have access to appropriate care and the opportunity to, for instance, enter clinical trials and access innovative treatments. A recent editorial noted the mismatch between those PLWH that were recruited to clinical trials (overrepresentation of young white males) and those seen in the general population (a more heterogeneric demography). Women have been severely underrepresented in many areas of HIV treatment and care including inclusion in research. This appears to be an ongoing issue across the HIV landscape with alternative approaches required to allow both access and opportunity in advancing care and its underpinning research. This is essential as in the UK a third of people living with HIV are women and globally the figure stands at fifty percent and it is incumbent on everyone that the right interventions are utilised in this as well as any other community. This is particularly important where intersectional issues make marginalisation and stigma even more challenging.  The near-invisibility of WLWH is not a recent phenomenon but one that has existed from the early 80s when HIV came to the fore and the public’s attention.  This is one legacy that the community needs to overcome and as Jacqui Stevenson says:

No more excuses: Making HIV research work for women. (Sophia Forum)

Other marginalised groups such as those from BAME backgrounds, whilst being disproportionately affected, were also largely excluded from trials and medical care more generally.

As ART has produced improved outcomes in terms of life expectancy, the demographics of people living with HIV has changed radically. A significant number of PLWH including women have a life expectancy similar to that found in the general population.  However, there are disparities between groups (see, for instance, Solomon et al 2020) and a general reduction in quality of life for PLWH due to the onset of a range of geriatric syndromes a decade or more earlier with ongoing discrimination. This has been emphasised recently by ongoing research and advocacy by Jacqui Stevenson who has studied WLWH growing older. The outcomes of the research provide eight asks to improve the lives of WLWH.

Advice for women and HIV including using PrEP can be found at:

Mechanical Engineers Walk the Walk – Well Cycle the Cycle!

Absolutely great effort from the School’s Med Tech cyclists Drs Peter Culmer and Andrew Jackson in support of Cancer Support Yorkshire. The route was the famous The Way of the Roses… nice play on words… unifying the pre-eminent counties of England, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

A mighty 250 km cycle across the country in one day!

Please donate on Just Giving: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andrew-jackson112

This post was written by Richard M Hall on behalf of Andrew Jackson and Pete Culmer – Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds.

93 percent club

Earlier in the year I reported on a new University Stakeholder Group that was gaining traction within the sector. Unusually this one was centred on those which form the greatest proportion of school leavers, those from state schools.  There is further news on this on the BBC website.  Sophie Pender expertly brings the situation to the fore saying:

“Truthfully, when many state-educated people reach the pinnacle of their careers, they’ve often dispensed with their state-school identity,”

“Our socioeconomic background is not obvious on the surface.

“It’s a characteristic that we are able to mask if we need to – and that needs to stop.”

 Quotes taken from the BBC website – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-57580910, accessed 12th July 2021

I just wonder how may of us now say ‘dinner’ rather than ‘tea’!?

Further information on this not-for-profit social enterprise can be found by following the link  – 93percent.

Paige Kesemeyer – homelessness to academic success!

A truly brilliant piece from Paige Kesemeyer about her journey from disadvantage and initial lack of opportunity to completing her BA degree in Social Policy and an MA in Society, Culture and Media.   Education for all and the opportunities that it provides are a necessary part of imaging a just and beneficial society which allows all to flourish as they see fit. It also provides us (society) with the widest possible pool of talent and encourages a broader range of innovation and ideas to circulate within different sectors.  It also recognises the importance of taking to account all stakeholder views to ensure that minimal disadvantage is impacted on particular groups.

Final day of Pride month – the EU keeps the good fight up! 🏳️‍🌈

Pride month has offered a vibrant opportunity to celebrate diversity and the identities of our friends, colleagues and communities.

However, recent news of the Hungarian bill which set out to ban teaching of LGBTQ+ topics in schools is a callous and unfortunate reminder that there are still many marginalised LGBTQ+ communities.

BioTrib and its members are proud to be part of a European community that was quick to condemn this shameful bill. The President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, released an uncompromising statement reassuring us all that the Hungarian bill is at loggerheads with the fundamental values of the EU and will not stand for discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

I believe in a Europe which embraces diversity.

I will use all the powers of the Commission to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed. Whoever they are and where ever they live within the European Union.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Read President von der Leyen’s full statement here or alternatively watch it here.

Data in the EU – Interesting information on demographics and Migration within the World’s Largest Trading Bloc

We are often told that data and the knowledge derived from it drives our economy and our is important for social justice – an evidence based approach but so often we are not provided with the data we need let alone the tools for the average person to access it. A step in the right direction is the data service of the EU – interesting reading was the demography and migration bit of the service… have a read! But not sure if you can get hold of the source data.

When will the infringements of people’s rights to dignity end?

Prof Chloe Orkin key UK HIV researcher, activist and consultant says on her twitter feed ‘How totally SHAMEFUL and hideous that this government chose to hold a public consultation before legislating to ban the INDEFENSIBLE practice of conversion therapy’.

Following the Queens Speech laying out the year ahead, many groups are elated and relieved to hear an end to conversion therapy attempts to change someones sexual orientation or gender identity in England and Wales. However many campaigners are frustrated that this is not an immediate blanket interdiction on this abusive and damaging practice, instead the ban on conversion therapy will be preceded by a public consultation.

European Diversity Month

May is the month to be in within Europe, as it celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion in our workplaces and in the society throughout the whole European Union through European Diversity Month

Let’s all take a bolder stand for diversity and act about it. Let’s show our commitment to equality and this May 2021 celebrate the European Diversity Month together. With more diverse workplaces, we will create a fairer and more equal Europe for all.

Helena Dalli, EU Commissioner for Equality

There is a launch event on Tuesday, 4 May 10:00-12:00 CEST, which can be accessed following registration on the above website. You will be able to view a recording of the high-level launch here.

Diversity – A Bullingdon in reverse: how working-class student club is taking on elitism

Elitism alive and well in British Universities reports the Guardian. You wouldn’t really believe this is 2021 – more like Victorian England. We, as a community, need all our citizens to play an active and crucial role in determining goals, aspirations and sharing of the spoils.  This sort of activity leads to the exclusion of potential and fails to bring the most capable person to the fore.