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!
Chris Cousens is a Senior Research Scientist at Moredun and has always been fascinated by pathogenesis, or “solving the puzzle of how disease is caused and how the host fights back”. Chris did a PhD in veterinary virology at Edinburgh and then worked in the lab of Ian Wilmut (before Dolly the sheep made him famous) at the Roslin Institute.
In 1993, Chris moved to Moredun to work on ovine pulmonary adenocarcinoma (OPA). OPA is a contagious lung cancer of sheep caused by a virus; it is invariably fatal and there is no effective treatment despite 200 years of study. In her time at Moredun, Chris has worked on pretty much every aspect of the disease, from investigating farming practices to monitor disease spread through to looking at the function of individual virus genes to see how it causes the cancer to grow. The unique biology of the disease means that despite many years of work, a diagnostic laboratory test or a good vaccine remain elusive. However, Chris’ recent research showed that on-farm screening for OPA using ultrasound, used as the basis of a test-and-cull programme, reduces the prevalence of the disease, a piece of work that may lead to a national control or assurance programme.
“My work is very varied, from hands-on lab work through to management, grant writing, and knowledge transfer. I like that my work, as well as leading to publications, also generates end-user relevant outputs which are communicated to farmers and vets. I also like that I have constant opportunities to learn, to mentor, to cultivate new skills and to develop new collaborations or areas of work.”
UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science: https://www.un.org/en/observances/women-and-girls-in-science-day