Lecturer Sarah rewarded for inspiring women in science

Dr Sarah Harriss' achievements and ability to inspire others led her to receive a scientific heirloom from a peer at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Suffrage Science Awards.

On International Women’s Day, Dr Sarah Harris, of the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology and the School of Physics and Astronomy, was one of the 12 female scientists and engineers from across the world who will be presented with hand-crafted jewellery at the Suffrage Science Awards ceremony, held at The Royal Society.

The awards celebrate women in science and engineering and encourage others to enter science and reach senior leadership roles. The 12 awardees were chosen by the previous award holders for their scientific achievements and ability to inspire others.

Encouraging women in science

Sarah was nominated by Dr Sarah Staniland from the University of Sheffield, who said: “I nominated Sarah because she is not trying to be a leader or spend all her time doing purposeful ‘women in science’ work, but simply because she is unashamedly herself. 

“Before I got my job at Leeds, I had had my confidence knocked. I had been told in my past that I ‘lacked gravitas’... and then I met Sarah who's message was supportive, and completely the opposite to what previously been told."

She continued: "Sarah made me realise: ‘No, I don't want 'gravitas', I want to be good at what I do and the confidence to be myself,' for which I am eternally grateful.”

The awards themselves are items of jewellery, inspired by the Suffrage movement, and Sarah Staniland will pass on the jewellery as an heirloom to Sarah Harris. The jewellery was created by art students from Central Saint Martins, who worked with scientists to design pieces inspired by research and the Suffragette movement, from which the award scheme takes its name.

Suffrage Science Award

A Suffrage Science Award given to Sarah Harriss by Sarah Staniland: the awards are pieces of jewellery, inspired by the Suffrage movement, designed by art students from Central Saint Martins.

Dr Harris said: “I am a theoretical physicist, who strives to understand biology at the molecular level. My research has taught me that listening to diverse ideas and opinions is vital to discovery. It can be hard, but when you start to overcome barriers of language and culture, then it really is fun.”

“I am very grateful for this award. It gives me the opportunity to share my personal experience of the benefits of having an inclusive mind in science.

My research has taught me that listening to diverse ideas and opinions is vital to discovery... it gives me the opportunity to share my personal experience of the benefits of having an inclusive mind in science.

Global representation

The Suffrage Science scheme was initiated by Professor Dame Amanda Fisher, Director of the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS), in 2011.

Amanda said: “Now in its eighth year, these heirlooms create a self-perpetuating network of talent and contacts to help others succeed in science and engineering. This year’s awardees join a community of more than 120 women scientists.

The awards... illustrate the international nature of science and engineering, and the global effort to improve female representation.

“Since 2011, the awards have travelled from the UK, across Europe to the USA, Hong Kong and to Uganda, illustrating the international nature of science and engineering, and the global effort to improve female representation.”