The Czech Republic has long been one of the EU countries with the lowest proportion of women in science. According to information from the current yearbook of the Czech Statistical Office, 115,100 men worked in science and technology in 2021, but only 43,300 women.
The disproportion is also clearly visible in technical fields, where 10 526 women studied in the same year, while there were 26 467 male students. Overall, then, the number of students studying in technical fields is declining. However, in the natural sciences, for example, the number of female students outnumbered male students. While there were 13,200 women, there were 10,300 men. However, this is still only slightly reflected in the final representation of women in science.
Many factors are to blame for the lack of women in research and universities, including the often persistent stereotypes and the imaginary division of disciplines into “male” and “female”. Breaking down these prejudices and inspiring female high school students to study science and engineering is the main goal of Become a Woman Scientist for a Day. This year it will be held for the ninth time.
What is on the programme?
According to dr. Jaroslava Óbertová, a scientist and the main organizer of the event, the programme is again a bit richer than last year. "We have two new exercises on offer. One of them will introduce the students to working with an electron microscope, the other will take them to the state-of-the-art HiLase laser workplace in Dolní Břežany. Another new feature is an evening programme organized by the EPS Young Minds association," described Dr. Óbertová.
The event will kick off with a morning series of lectures by female scientists and students from FJFI and FEE CTU. This part will take place in the FJFI building on Trojanova Street in Prague. Dr. Mária Marčišovská from the Department of Physics of FJFI will introduce the world of elementary particles and her related research in the field of radiation-resistant semiconductor detectors of ionizing radiation to the students. Professor Edita Pelantová from the Department of Mathematics of FJFI has prepared a lecture whose title is - Can We Trust Our Calculator?
An interesting project will be presented by Bc. Kateřina Poláková, a student of cybernetics and robotics at the FEL CTU. "As part of my internship at VALEO, I developed an application for driving a passenger car using a tablet," Kateřina Poláková described the topic of the lecture. The afternoon will be devoted to a panel discussion with four female scientists. On behalf of FJFI, Prof. Helena Jelínková, an expert in lasers, Dr. Katarína Křížková Gajdošová, an expert in particle physics, and Dr. Monika Kučeráková, who studies the physical properties of rocks and metals and their applications, will present their journey into the world of science and what they are currently working on. The representative of FEL will be Dr. Michaela Valentová. "In my professional activities, I am now focusing on promoting energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources,” said Dr. Valentová, adding that she sees climate change and sustainability as some of the biggest challenges of our time.
Science in practice
In the afternoon, high school students will literally "touch" science in science workshops of their choice. For example, Ing. Sára Haidlová from FJFI will explain how to analyze the data collected in experiments at the Large Hadron Collider LHC at the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN. They will then evaluate the experimental results during a video conference moderated by scientists directly from CERN - and compare their results with the results of groups from different universities.
Aneta Pjatkanová, a student of mathematical physics at the FJFI, will show how the mathematical tool Modulo simplifies calculations with large numbers during her course. Ing. Magdaléna Parýzková will introduce them to the basic principles of quantum information processing.
The capacity of both novelty workshops is currently full. "In the HiLase center, we are dealing with the construction of high-power lasers and their use. One of the possible applications is interference microstructuring - writing an interference field into a sample, as a result of which it is possible to change the wettability or reflectivity of a surface," said Ing. Dominika Jochcová, who is in charge of this workshop. "As part of the exercise, it will be possible to try out work in the laser laboratory - we will focus on the interference phenomenon, which we will investigate through the Mach-Zehnder interferometer," added the scientist.
Scientists and students from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering are again preparing interesting workshops. "At the exercise, we will talk a little about the state of photovoltaics in our country and the world, what is being worked on, and also about community energy, which is a very hot topic in our country right now. In addition, we will make a solar lamp, which each participant can take home a piece of green energy," said photovoltaic expert Dr Ladislava Černá about the content of her course.
Members of the faculty association wITches, which popularizes IT, will introduce even complete beginners to programming. "At the workshop, you will learn how to use variables, strings, conditions, and loops in the Python programming language. Besides, you will find out what is hidden under mysterious abbreviations like API or HTTP. We will practice the acquired knowledge right afterward and create an application that will predict the user's age based on public data and the user's name," described Margarita Tkachenko, a member of the association.
In the next course, the students will be guided through how to program a walking robot by PhD student Ing. The prerequisite for participation in this workshop is a basic knowledge of the Python programming language.