The 11th February 2024 marked the 9th UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
A significant gender gap has persisted throughout the years at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines all over the world. Even though women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still under-represented in these fields.
Here, we celebrate some of Moredun’s women in STEM!
Fiona Kenyon is a Principal Investigator and works on developing solutions for sustainable control of roundworm parasites of sheep. Fi is at the forefront of efforts to test how on-farm technology can help farmers control worms without over-reliance on anthelmintic drugs. Fi grew up on a hill sheep farm where her Dad was a shepherd, and her Mum’s family are sheep farmers, so evidently this was her destiny!
At university, Fi encountered the weird and wonderful world of small animals with a lifestyle of making themselves at home inside other animals and was hook(worm)ed! Fi did an undergraduate project working between the university labs and Moredun and was amazed to find out that people studied parasites for a living. Fi completed a PhD working on sheep scab mites and did a post-doc working with human malaria (although sadly didn’t get to visit Ghana). After a round-the-world trip and a short period working in industry Fi returned to Moredun.
“I love how varied my job is: some days I am out in the field working with animals, others I am analysing samples in the lab and in others I’m attending agricultural shows or meetings to talk to people about sustainable worm control. This job has also given me an opportunity to travel; last year was particularly memorable with 2 weeks in New Zealand. My advice for other girls and women thinking about a career in science is to just go ahead and try. Growing up I had no idea that people did this type of work, and its only through taking the opportunities that arise that I found this career. There’s lots of variety out there so find something that interests you and go for it!”
Meet Jade Duncan, a Research Assistant in the Moredun Parasitology lab. When Jade left high school in 2016, she completely ignored her teachers’ advice and decided to go to college and study her favourite subject (biology) rather than her strongest subject (social science), because of her lifelong love of animals and science. It turned out pretty well: Jade went on to complete a BSc (Hons) in Animal Science at SRUC (2016-2020) and an MSc in Aquatic Pathobiology at the University of Stirling (2020-2021). Upon graduating at Stirling, Jade began her current job at Moredun.
“My job varies daily which I love: some days I can be out at the farm working with sheep, and on other days I can be in the lab looking for fascinating parasites down a microscope. I have had the opportunity to work on so many interesting projects including Red Deer on the Isle of Rum, Svalbard Reindeer and precision livestock farming in sheep.”
Jade also has some words of advice for women and girls who are still figuring out their career path:
“I would encourage people to embrace every opportunity they can because nowadays experience is essential. For example, I did work experience in a veterinary practice, volunteered at the Riding for the Disabled Association, and travelled to rural Australia for 3 months to experience farm life (sheep & cattle) with a wonderful knowledgeable farming family. Finally, don’t always pursue what you are good at, pursue what you enjoy! Eventually, if you put the work in what you enjoy will also become what you are good at.”
UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science: https://www.un.org/en/observances/women-and-girls-in-science-day