Mother wins top prize for science

May 14, 2004

Chemist Carol Robinson proved this week that women can raise a family and excel in science, when she won a Royal Society award for her work.

Professor Robinson, an expert in protein interactions based at Cambridge University, has won the £30,000 Rosalind Franklin award for outstanding contributions to science. Although now regarded as a world leader in her field, there was a time when Professor Robinson felt that having three children had shut her out of science forever.

She said: "I've had a very unconventional career, with an eight-year career break to have a family. Many people say you can't do this sort of job with children."

Professor Robinson will use part of her prize money to fund a mentoring project for female scientists and engineers. With no senior female scientists to hand, her own mentors were men. But she said their support was invaluable nonetheless: "I don't think anyone is really standing behind junior women academics saying, 'You must do this!'"

The award, launched last year, is funded by the government's Office of Science and Technology as part of its campaign to address the underrepresentation of women in science, engineering and technology.

Despite being instrumental in the discovery of the structure of DNA, Rosalind Franklin struggled to gain recognition in a male-dominated field.

It was her X-ray diffraction images that pointed to the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule. She died in 1958, four years before the male scientists involved in the discovery - Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins - were awarded the Nobel prize.

As a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, Professor Robinson has access to Dr Franklin's notebooks, which are stored there. "I'm going to poke around them for inspiration," she said.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns