Rita R. Colwell Impact Fund for the Advancement of Women in Science awarded first grants

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December 2021

The Rita R. Colwell Impact Fund, established in partnership with the OIST Foundation to support and empower women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) through OIST's science community, made its first grants in November 2021 to two projects led by OIST faculty members. We are pleased to announce the grant recipients and share some words from the project leads and Colwell Fund Committee below. The Rita R. Colwell Impact Fund is entirely financed by charitable donations. We are grateful for all the generous donors who have contributed to this fund. 

Rita R. Colwell Impact Fund Supported Projects

Grant Period: December 2021-November 2022

1. Research Internships for Female Students from Afghanistan (led by Prof. Sile Nic Chormaic)

This project aims to bring female students from Afghanistan to OIST and provide them with the opportunity of a six-month research internship. At the end of the internship, OIST faculty will consider nominating them for PhD at OIST or assist them in finding a PhD or a work placement outside of OIST. Contact with students from Afghanistan was made with the assistance of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy. Due to difficulties in Kabul with the closure of diplomatic relationships with most countries, the students are currently in Iran or Pakistan.

Words from the Project Lead and the Colwell Fund Committee:

Education access is a critical issue for women who have been severely and adversely affected by recent events in Afghanistan. The Colwell Fund will contribute to reverse this discrimination by supporting female science students from Afghanistan who strive for their education rights. It is our hope that a research internship at OIST will not only further their educational opportunities and academic potential, but also support them to become future researchers, educators, and leaders. While this action that we are taking is very minor on the scale of the issues faced by the people of Afghanistan, we hope it will make a real difference to the individuals concerned. Hopefully there are many efforts like this and together it will make a difference for Afghanistan, for women, and for science.

2. Women at the Intersection of Mathematics and Theoretical Physics Meet in Okinawa (led by Profs. Reiko Toriumi and Xiaodan Zhou)

The project aims to extend a catalogue Women of Mathematics Around the World and its exhibition by adding portraits of Japanese female mathematicians during the associated scientific workshop at OIST, tentatively scheduled in September 2022. The workshop is part of the “Women at the Intersection of Mathematics and Theoretical Physics” series that have been successfully hosted in the past few years at different institutes in Europe and in North America. The catalogue and its touring exhibition feature female mathematicians through photographic portraits and interviews that weave through the professional paths they have gone through, which cannot be unentangled from more personal aspects of their lives, e.g., as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, as a partner, as a daughter, etc.

Words from the Project Lead and the Colwell Fund Committee:

This workshop in Okinawa and the extended catalogue project aim to create new bridges between mathematics and physics while strengthening the existing ones. The target audience is female mathematicians and physicists from various horizons in Japan and overseas. The event will contribute to making more visible women working in these traditionally male dominated disciplines, in particular female scientists based in Japan, where women build a very small minority of the scientific community. As the catalogue tours around the world, the stories of brilliant Japanese female scientists will attain higher visibility and inspire more girls and women from Japan and globally to pursue careers in science.