Olympian launches L’Oreal-UNESCO UK and Ireland Fellowships for Women in Science at the Royal Society

Olympic silver medallist Dr Alison Mowbray inspires audience of eminent scientists at The Royal Society

An Olympic rowing silver medallist took centre stage at The Royal Society on the 22  January to inspire resilience in female scientific researchers. Dr Alison Mowbray, who also holds a PhD in microbiology from the University of Cambridge, was speaking at the launch of the 2015 L’Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science UK and Ireland Fellowships, which are now in their 8th year. 2015 applications opened on the 2  February.

Mowbray joined representatives of the United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO, L’Oreal and partner organisations, to promote the rich and diverse collaborative network that supports the fellowships. She made a compelling case for the similarities between sporting dedication and doctoral research. The diversity of perspectives at the event was refreshing: Gail Cardew, Director of Science and Education at The Royal Institution, gave a subsequent speech on finding inspiration from family.

Guests enjoyed the interactive aspects of the event, as they were invited to suggest ways to strengthen networks between teachers and academics in a talk led by Dr Rosalind Mist, Head of Education Policy at The Royal Society.

The Fellowships give 5 post-doctoral researchers in life or physical sciences, computing, engineering or mathematics a £15,000 grant to support their research, and will be judged by a panel of eminent scientists.

The impressive credentials of previous winners will be hard to compete with. Last year’s Fellows were involved in a breadth of pioneering research, from neurological circuits in the regulation of energy homeostasis to measuring the differences between matter and anti-matter. It is a promising sign that this year’s applications will be of similar outstanding quality.

The benefits of the award are much broader than research grants. Recipients have commented on the greater platform it affords their work, both within and outside of, the scientific community. At the launch, previous Fellows were treated to media training from Media Women. Interviewed in a television studio, they were taught to distil complex research ideas into fifteen second snapshots for public consumption. This holistic nature of the prize and the networks of world-class female scientists it creates make the Fellowships unique within the field.