Women in Science Day
According to UIS data, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women.
International Day of Women and Girls in Science falls each year on 11 February. The United Nations stated that “this day aims to bridge between the International Community and women in science through linking their knowledge and expertise and its applications in a systematic, critical way for the 2030 agenda and its 17 global goals.”.
In a world where Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers have traditionally been male dominated, this day is dedicated to inspire the movement of more women to arise in the scientific workforce, from a spectrum of different backgrounds, working in a range of different roles.
Women still represent just 33,3 % of researchers globally
Less than 4 % of Nobel Prizes for science have ever been awarded to women
Only 11 % of senior research roles are held by women in Europe
In celebration of this day, this year, we hear from some on the women in science in Cyprus, as they reflect on their own career. The intention of this is to highlight the important work of our female scientists and inspire the new generation to follow their dreams regardless of the evidently low percentages.
Dr. Christiana Neophytou
Dr. Christiana Neophytou earned a BSc degree in Biology from the University of Athens in 2008. The same year she joined the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cyprus and earned her MSc degree in Molecular Biology, graduating with the highest GPA in the class of 2010. She continued at the lab of prof. Andreas Constantinou at the UCY as a PhD student. Her major research interest was elucidating the anti-cancer mechanism of action of a synthetic Vitamin E derivative, TPGS, in breast cancer cells. In addition, she worked on FP7 program “GRANATUM” that aimed to identify natural compounds (using in silico screening) that favorably interact with the Estrogen Receptor for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. She was also involved in the discovery of IL13Rα2, as a potent driver of breast cancer metastasis and novel therapeutic target. After defending her PhD thesis in 2014, she worked as a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Cancer Biology and Chemoprevention lab focusing on breast cancer research. From 2019-2022, she joined prof. Panos Papageorgis’ lab at the European University and worked on an RPF-funded project on metastatic breast cancer dormancy. In addition, she was an external collaborator of the State General Laboratory on a Horizon2020 project, HMB4EU, investigating the development of disease following exposure to environmental chemicals. She currently is an Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology in the Department of Life Sciences at the European University. Her overall research interests include the elucidation of the underlying mechanisms of carcinogenesis, deregulation of apoptosis in cancer and cancer chemoresistance. Her long-term goal is to develop novel strategies to improve the efficacy of chemotherapeutic approaches and reverse resistance through drug combination as well as the discovery of novel cancer chemopreventive agents.
Christina Demetriadou recently obtained her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Cyprus.
Christiana, regardless her young age, currently works as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, USA where she studies the metabolic regulation of epigenetic signaling in pancreatic cancer. As she stated, "my dream as a scientist is to make new discoveries which can contribute to the global scientific community expanding our knowledge in basic research and leading to new therapeutic interventions which can improve the quality of human life". Christiana is an inspiration to all the young women. Her advice to the younger women and girls who want to pursue a career in science, is to chase their dreams despite the challenges they might face during this long, yet fascinating journey.
"Being a scientist is the best 'job' in the world because you wake up every day and you get the chance to discover something that nobody else knows!", Christiana mentions.
Dr. Christiana Demetriadou
Dr. Maria A. Tsiarli
Maria A. Tsiarli is an Associate Researcher at Brown University, USA and a Research Scientist at biobank.cy, Center of Excellence in Biobanking and Biomedical Research Molecular Medicine Research Center, Cyprus.
She received her B.S. degree in Biology at the School of Biology, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece, her M.Sc. in Neuroscience by the University College London (UCL), London, UK and her Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the School of Arts and Sciences, University at Pittsburgh, PA and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, Pittsburgh, PA. She has conducted postdoctoral research in transcriptional regulation dynamics at Brown University, Providence, RI, USA alongside Dr. Erica Larschan. Additionally, she was awarded a Fix Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Harvard Medical School to conduct novel research on the neuro-developmental mechanisms of aggression with Dr. Edward Kravitz. Her research interests include cancer neuroscience, tumor microenvironment, transcriptional and molecular mechanisms of nervous system development and stem cell dynamics.
Dr. Tsiarli is an elected Board Member of the Cyprus Biological Society (CBS) since 2020 and is highly interested in science education and public outreach of scientific research. Since her return to Cyprus from the United States, she has been hosting the online series of scientific lectures, “Excellence in Biology”, which features prominent researchers from around the world, with an emphasis of bringing to the frontline Greek scientists. Additionally, she has established and organized CyBioS, the yearly scientific conference on Cancer, Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, hosted by the CBS. The inaugural CyBioS event, which was the first of its kind in Cyprus, was titled CyBioS Mini Symposium 2023| CancerNow: From Benchside to Clinical Applications, was welcomed with high remarks from members of the scientific community as also, from members of the EU Mission on Cancer.
Dr. Myrtani Pieri is currently an Associate Professor of Physiology in the School of Life and Health Sciences of the University of Nicosia and she is also the co-director of Scico Cyprus, a non-profit organisation, focusing on scientific engagement and empowerment, through innovative, interactive, and entertaining means.
Dr. Pieri's research focuses on Gastrointestinal Tract Physiology and, in particular, the role of specific ingested micro molecules (named microRNAs) in health and disease. Myrtani envisions that data from this line of work, it will add to our understanding of nutrition, genetic regulation, and food-engineering and open new avenues on viewing the nutrition-disease relationship.
Her future plans are to "conduct inter-disciplinary research on (but not restrained to) the role of food-composition, gut-microbiota, food-pathogens, nutrient and immune system interrelations, the role of the nutrients in disease - a highly translational field that could lead to services and products with commercial value in Cyprus and abroad", as stated by Dr. Pieri.
Dr. Myrtani Pieri
Vasilia Tamamouna is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the “Centre for the Study of Haematological and other Malignancies (CSHM)” - Research Associate at the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute.
Dr. Tamamouna has stated that her goals of her research are the application of genetic screens to identify and investigate genetic vulnerabilities in different types of cancers and develop a complete map of vulnerabilities that will lead to the identification of new therapeutic approaches. Additionally, she wishes to look for mutations that cause cancer cells to grow and also confer specific vulnerabilities that normal cells lack. Some of these acquired alterations represent compelling therapeutic targets.
Understanding the genetic diversity across a broad spectrum of human cancers in order to guide treatment based on molecular characteristics and working on the cell-autonomous and cell-non-autonomous processes and signals involved in solid tumors topics are some of the future goal of Dr. Tamamouna. Furthermore, the application of genetic screens to study angiogenesis, metastasis and drug sensitization/resistance pathways and the performance of CRISPR-Cas9 screenings followed by sorting of cell populations based on surface markers implicated in cancer therapy and immune surveillance.
Dr. Vasilia Tamamouna
Dr Vicky Nicolaidou is an Assistant Professor of Immunology in the Department of Life and Health Sciences of the University of Nicosia.
She holds a BSc in Biology from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece (funded by the Cyprus State Scholarships Foundation (IKYΚ), an MRes (with Distinction) in Biomedical Science and a PhD (funded by Arthritis Research UK) from Imperial College London, UK. After completing her PhD, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Imperial College London, UK, University of Oxford, UK and The Center for the Study of Haematological Malignancies, Karaiskakio Foundation, Nicosia, Cyprus. Since 2014 she joined the Department of Life and Health Sciences at the University of Nicosia as a full-time Teaching and Research Faculty. Dr Nicolaidou’s research interests focus on osteoimmunology, autoimmunity, haematological malignancies, immune system function and regulation and cellular metabolism. Her work has been published in various international peer-reviewed journals, in conference proceedings as well as books.
Dr. Vicky Nicolaidou
Rafaella Hadjicosti is a Product Design graduate with a passion of getting an opportunity to be a part of the medical and science field. She interested in exploring the design world even deeper and developing as a designer through her work in the automation world of Life-Science.
Despite her young age, Rafaella has achieved to become a Project Coordinator at 22-years old. Her approach towards every category of design is comprehensive; inclusive of creativity, practicality and distinctively towards a finished detailed product. The aim of the project “Ecofriendly system for instant cooling for life-science benchwork” is the development of a custom-made innovative cooling system that produces and instantly distributes abundant, reusable cooling liquid or beads in life-science laboratories, with optimization of resources and reduction in water waste. The proposed project is expected to have significant impact in terms of Scientific, Technological, Social and Economic Benefits. Specifically, it may lead to the following advantages: development of new technologies with IP for a potential new utility patent; acquisition of new skills for the participants; expand the company portfolio of innovative products; attract partners and investors to finalize the market potential of this product; hire highly educated and qualified professionals in electrical, mechanical and other related engineering fields during and after the project. From a scientific point of view, the
project may reduce energy consumption in laboratories; provide stable cooling conditions during a laboratory procedure; avoid bottlenecks in laboratory workflow.
Rafaella believes that a good design is a design where the user does not realize that task is being performed with that product, yet there was an enjoyable and memorable interaction, it being intuitive and effortless.
Despite all these women achieving a place in the Science field, we must remember that there is still much more to be done to achieve true gender equality in science. Determination is key to move steadily towards living in a world where girls are encouraged to study science, where women have adequate support to balance the responsibilities of research and motherhood, and where scientists are judged purely on the merit of their discoveries and the potential of their work to change the world.
Compiled using information from:
International Day of Women and Girls in Science I United Nations
Celebrating our Female Scientists I GOV.UK