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Women in Astronomy

13 Dec 2022
School News
Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Federation of Astronomical Societies Convention 2022: Women in Astronomy

On November 12th 2022, the Federation of Astronomical Societies held its annual Convention at the Martin Wood Lecture Theatre, Oxford University, the theme was: Women in Astronomy. To explore this theme they wanted a series of talks including past, present and future female astronomers - they asked me to be the speaker representing future female astronomers!

The day started off with the keynote speaker, Dame Professor Jocelyn Bell-Burrell. In 1967, she was working as a post-graduate student, building and operating a large radio telescope at Cambridge University, when she discovered ‘a bit of scruff’ in an output chart recorder which was later classified as an entirely new category of object, pulsars. She gave a talk on her discovery and the challenges she faced as a woman establishing her career as well as the ‘Bell-Burnell’ Graduate Scholarship Fund which was set up to promote diversity in Physics, when she donated her prize money from the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. After such an incredible talk, it was my turn with my ‘A Young Person’s Guide to the Universe’. I talked about the things I have done so far and what inspires me. Hopefully, I managed to inspire someone with my story. Then it was lunch and we went to The Natural History Museum just down the road. After the break, the Convention resumed with Mary McIntyre’s story on famous female astronomers in history, from Wang Zhenyi to Caroline Herschel, all amazing and talented women who overcame huge challenges to pursue their passion for astronomy. After that came Vanessa Emeka-Okafor, a PhD student researching the atmospheres of exoplanets, can you imagine being able to not only see planets golfing around stars outside of our solar system, she was even investigating their atmospheres. She also explained how the Bell-Burrell Graduate Scholarship Fund helped her career. The day ended with a panel discussion where we answered questions from the conference delegates and finally the many ‘thank yous and carry on with what you’re doing' and I have a lovely bouquet of flowers in my hands! 

It was definitely one of the best days of my life and I will forever be grateful to Dr Daniels and the Federation of Astronomical Societies for the huge opportunity I was given!


by Grace B (Year 11)

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