In Search of a Scientific Model – The New Indian Express
Express press service
As a high school student, we are only introduced to two worlds of the universe called science – engineering and medicine. However, if you are someone like Ilina Singh, you will investigate further and find out that in these worlds exist several branches which are barely explored.
When this 17-year-old chose her path to high school, she had a difficult situation unlike many of us. Why are there very few female role models in science, apart from Madame Curie? Why was no one an Indian?
By coincidence, a tweet from Union Minister Smriti Irani about 11 Indian female scientists sparked a spark in Ilina. She took a deep dive that ultimately culminated in The Gutsy Girls of Science which was released on National Science Day (February 28) 2022.
The book introduces readers to the 11 trailblazing women who overcame obstacles to succeed in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Names like Iravati Karve, Janaki Ammal, Kadambini Ganguly and Kamal Ranadive, who have made great contributions – from developing a weather model to finding a cure for cancer, come to the fore and in this process we let’s also learn about 11 different fields of science.
“I realized that Indian girls like me were very underrepresented in science. So I had the idea of writing a book for girls younger than me – a kind of book that I would have liked have when I was younger,” says Ilina.
In addition to Indian government websites which contained detailed information on the work of these scientists, Ilina also contacted Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative in Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka, who also wrote the preface to the book. What began as a series of portraits of women slowly took on the form of a book with biographies, poems describing them, and activity related to the field to which they belonged.
“I sent the portraits to Smriti Irani and the Prime Minister of India. It was appreciated. I thought if only the portraits had so much appreciation, then maybe I should compile them together. This inspired the poems. Then came the prose,” she explains.
The quizzes and activities she designed give the book an interesting twist that even adults would love to try. “I feel like these concepts work well when combined with activities and quizzes. I tried to imagine what a 12-year-old child would have liked to read; it would have been activities, quizzes and games. The idea was to keep it appealing to young children,” she shares.
The conclusion of this book, for Ilina and the readers, is simple. We need more girls in science and we need to recognize those who are already accomplished. “Currently, only 14% of researchers in India are women, which I think is too small and definitely needs to change. Women must have a foot at the table where decisions are made about science, because they shape our future and our future. I believe having the right model and acknowledging which ones exist will make science less daunting and more palatable,” she concludes.