Ukraine’s got talents — science is not the exception! Many of Ukrainian female researchers are presented in the country’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM altogether). Ukrainian women in science contribute to all of these fields – on an equal footing with men.
According to UNESCO statistics, only 30% of scientists worldwide are women. However, in Ukraine, the number of women in science is higher — 45%. We only need to add that only one in five countries has achieved gender parity, whereby 45% to 55% of researchers are female. Ukraine is 12th out of 41 European countries with one of the highest rates of women among all the scientists.
More and more Ukrainian women are choosing science-related courses in universities and starting their careers as researchers — following one of the goals of sustainable development declared by the United Nations.
Let’s have a look at some of the most famous Ukrainian female representatives of science. All of them has already made a significant impact on the world’s science.
Valentyna was a biologist and a founder of the Ukrainian school of physiologists and biochemists. She graduated from the medical faculty of Kyiv University and later became a professor of Kyiv Medical Institute (now Bohomolets National Medical University). The Soviet government repressed Radzymovska in 1929 for her active political position. Still, it didn’t stop her from publishing around 70 papers in biochemistry, pathophysiology, psychoneurology and paediatrics. She is famous for studying tuberculosis and its treatment among children.
Being an astronomer, heliophysicist, doctor of science in Physics and Mathematics, Nina dedicated all her life to learning the structure of the Sun and processes that happen on it, which affect most fields of human activity. Her studies on solar protuberances were one of the first in the world. They paved the way for many other researchers in different counties. Morozhenko spent 30 years of her life, from 1958 to 1988, working in the Main Astrophysical Observatory of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.
She was a computer and information research scientist. Her major contribution was one of the world’s first high-level languages with an indirect address in programming, called the Address programming language. This is a basis for most of the programs we are currently using. Yushchenko belonged to the group of scientists operating the first computer in continental Europe developed under the direction of Serhii Lebedev in the 1950s. Later she became Director of the Institute of Computer Science of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (until 1997).
Nina is a Ukrainian mathematician and a member of mathematical societies in different countries. In 1948, at the age of 18, she was sentenced to 10 years of labour camps — for ‘the Ukrainian nationalism’. Rehabilitated in 1954, she defended her PhD dissertation in 1964 and her doctoral thesis – in 1988. She created more than 500 scientific works translated into numerous languages. Her broad research interests include the theory of mixed boundary value problems, generalized analytical functions, integral transformations, singular differential equations with partial derivatives, special functions, history and mathematics methods, etc.
Another Ukrainian mathematician currently works at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, formerly at Berlin Mathematical School and the Humboldt University of Berlin. In 2016, she received a prestigious award, the Salem Prize, given each year to young researchers for outstanding contributions to analysis. Maryna got that prize because of her breakthrough work on the densest sphere packings in dimensions 8 and 24 using modular forms. Maryna solved the problem which other scientists had been working on for 400 years.
Olha is the youngest Ukrainian female PhD (who became a doctor at the age of 29), famous for her work in biophysics. Her discoveries shed light on mechanisms of the development of cancer and other illnesses caused by mutations. For example, in 2017, she found the way pairs of chromosomes with mutations manage to deceive DNA and integrate into a spiral that causes cancer. This discovery makes it possible to cure the disease.
In 2018, the ‘For Women in Science’ prize was established in Ukraine. It is a part of the global L’Oréal-UNESCO program with the same name, founded back in 1998. Three female researchers who made a significant scientific contribution receive this award every year.
The 2021 winners were:
- Iryna Bespalova, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Institute of Scintillation Materials of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
- Valentyna Nosenko, PhD in Physics and Mathematics, Institute of Semiconductor Physics of NAS of Ukraine
- Iryna Sulym, PhD in Chemistry, Institute of Surface Chemistry of NAS of Ukraine
Ukrainian female researchers are also one of the biggest popularizers of science. For instance, Olha Maslova, PhD in Biology, hosts a program ‘Science Like Clockwork’ and is a co-founder of many initiatives promoting science, especially discoveries that got the Nobel Prize. Also, she is a speaker at the ‘STEM is FEM’ project, dedicated to motivating as many Ukrainian girls as possible to choose STEM-related jobs. One of many educational initiatives within the project is ‘She is science’, which tells about the achievements of even more female researchers.
It is also worth mentioning a documentary project ‘Women in science‘. Its four episodes reveal the stories behind each female scientist who participates. The main character, Masha, a 15-year-old girl dreaming about a scientific career and looking for corresponding female role models to follow, asks her interlocutors about their research, discoveries, hobbies and challenges they were to overcome.
The scientists Masha talked with were:
- Vira Iefremova, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley (USA). She studies brain development disorders using stem cells.
- Kateryna Terletska, mathematician, winner of the L’Oreal Award for Women in Science. She studies the internal waves of the ocean.
- Maryna Skvyria, a zoologist, whose sphere of interest is large predators (wolves, bears etc.) She is the co-founder of the Bila Skelia (White Rock) shelter for bears located in the Kyiv region.
- Oksana Savenko, a marine biologist, works at the National Antarctic Scientific Centre of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Scientific Centre of Ecology of Sea. The first woman to go on a winter expedition to the Akademik Vernadsky station over the last 20 years, having spent more than 15 months there.
There is also a platform for younger generations to expose their talents by creating and presenting perspective works. Many of Ukraine’s Junior Academy of Sciences students are girls. For example, Olha Kharasakhal from Mariupol, in her 15, invented a unique technology for detecting metastases in the early stages of cancer, which is hundreds of times cheaper than foreign counterparts. She has won medals at many domestic scientific competitions and drew international attention as well.
Another Ukrainian girl, Yelyzaveta Stolyarchuk, aged 18, is interested in ecology and already has two major inventions: a method of recycling waste involving solar energy and a wind turbine based on the Segner wheel.
All these stories have shown that nothing’s impossible for women. Ukrainian women have made their globally recognized huge contributions to science. They’re still taking their bold initiatives in collaboration with colleagues from all over the world. And there is a whole new generation of young women ready to revolutionize the world.
Text by Yevhen Luzan