European commission
Issue 5, June 2015

Research & Innovation
Science: it's a girl thing!
Latest news from 'Science: it's a girl thing!'

'Science: it's a girl thing!' celebrates three years

21 June marked the three-year anniversary of the 'Science: it’s a girl thing!' campaign. So what better time than now to take a look back at the activities – from Facebook apps and chats to online competitions to live events – that have enlivened the campaign along the way?

77 000 Facebook fans and counting!

Since day one, the Science: it’s a girl thing! Facebook page, which now boasts 77 000 fans – 95% of whom are women, has served as an important hub for interaction with the young science enthusiasts of Europe. Our daily engagement, innovative apps and dynamic Q&A sessions have ensured that momentum still continues to grow three years after the launch.

Through Facebook, we have connected countless young science fans with experienced scientists. Since 2012, the page has hosted around 30 Facebook chats with female scientists during which fans have the chance to put their questions to accomplished specialists. Additionally, 53 female scientists from across Europe – from a software developer to a biochemist – now feature on the ‘Ask a Scientist!’ Facebook app which offers fans the chance to reach out directly to the scientists of their choice.

The campaign has also succeeded in exciting curious minds with hundreds of science conundrums, questions and posts over the past three years. A particular highlight was the ‘Sounds of Science’ quiz app, which ran throughout autumn 2014, testing our user’s aural sensitivity to science with weekly videos depicting a mystery science sound. Our overall winner, Sophie K, notched up an impressive 108 307 points by the end of the quiz!

240 000+ website page views

The many posts, comments and likes on Facebook often feed into our 'Science: it’s a girl thing!' website which has proven to be another popular online hub for the campaign. Up to now, the website, which has received a subtle makeover and additional content since the launch, had notched up an impressive 240 000 page views by the end of last year. It was also home to three editions of the successful ‘What does science mean to you?’ photo contest.

Science: it’s a girl thing on the ground

The campaign is by no means an exclusively online phenomenon. In our first year, we took to the streets of Europe with a mobile expo truck that wound its way through Austria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland, hosting science workshops with young people in museums along the way. Since then, we have been a regular presence at the annual European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) and at science events throughout Europe. Most recently, we invited young visitors to join our exciting science demos at the EU Open Doors Day in Brussels on 9 May.

2015 photo contest winners announced

Teams from Bulgaria, Romania and Belgium have scooped the top prizes in the final of the third edition of the “What does science mean to you?” photo contest.

The aptly-named ‘Winners’ team from Bulgaria have been named as the overall first-prize winners in the 2015 edition of the “What does science mean to you?” photo contest.

These three young girls picked up the main prize of a trip to Milan to meet Europe’s top young scientists at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) this September including a visit to EXPO2015.

Coming in behind them in joint second were team ‘Colourful bulb’ also from Bulgaria and ‘Science Artists’ from Romania. Each of the six second-prize winning team members will receive a branded Ice-Watch. Meanwhile, the ‘De Kippetjes’ team from Belgium, who were awarded third place, will each receive a Xoopar Girl Bluetooth Speaker.

The four winning teams were chosen from among the monthly winners for February to May which were selected by public vote. A total of 169 participants took part in the four-month contest and over 16 500 public votes were cast. The ‘Winners’ winning entry, which can be seen here along with the second and third-prize winners, is a sharp, focused shot of a pink liquid in motion.

Chat with Tjitske Boonstra

“I do think times are changing and I find that the more I am myself and do the things I like, the more recognition I get”: this was some of the wisdom that neuroscientist Tjitske Boonstra shared during her recent Facebook chat with young science fans.

The interative Q&A session, which took place on 26 May, involved international participants putting their burning questions to Tjitske, who works as a neuroscience post-doc. Originally from the Netherlands, Tjitske is now based at the Johns Hopkins University in the US where she investigates whether non-invasive electrical stimulation of the cerebellum can improve gait and balance deficits in Parkinson’s disease patients.

During the Facebook session, Tjitske had the chance to explain why she chose neuroscience in particular as her field: ‘When I started doing it, I realized I like to think about how the brain controls actions. The brain is an amazing organ as it can do so many things. To understand how difficult it is, think about the fact that we cannot yet build a robot that can move as a human being. This question intrigues me and therefore I started looking more into that.’

She also honestly described the realities of a career in scientific research, noting, ‘To do research, you need money (funds) and you need to get them yourself (at some point in your career) by writing grant applications. This can be a frustrating endeavour.’ However she also insisted on the importance of pursuing a career that fascinates you: ‘I think that if you are passionate about research you should give it a shot and see where you land.’

One Facebook fan asked if Tjitske has any difficulties getting recognised for her work. Her response was honest and hopeful: ‘About recognition, this is a more difficult question as there are unconscious biases against women in any field. However, I do think times are changing and I find that the more I am myself and do the things I like, the more recognition I get.’

Tjitske’s session was the first episode in the fifth series of 'Science: it’s a girl thing!' Facebook chats. You can take a look at previous chats and keep an eye out for upcoming sessions here:
Calendar – key dates
May-October: ‘Sylvia’s Lab’ at Joint Research Centre (JRC) during Expo Milan 2015 (Ispra, Italy)

19-25 July: MILSET Expo-Sciences International (ESI) (Brussels, Belgium)

16 July-4 August: Summer School of Science (Pozega and Visnjan, Croatia)

1-7 August: International Science Summer Camp (Copenhagen, Denmark)

News from the web
EU commissioner to mine untapped research riches (The Times Higher Education)

Oxford Chemist wins global women in science award (Oxford News)

2015 European Ada Awards Launch (Ada Awards)

Meet the Women Scientists of TIME 100 (TIME)


What is it like to work at CERN? 6 women have shared their experience of working in such an amazing place!
Social media & links to be highlighted

Did you miss the EU Open Days? Have a look at the pictures!

What have we learnt: what percentage of Earth's surface is covered by water?

Telecommunications, biology, mathematics… Ask all your burning questions about science via the app ‘Ask a Scientist’!

What it is like to be a woman in science? Find it out in our “Instant science” photo album!
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About the campaign

The ‘Science: it’s a girl thing!’ campaign is part of the wider ‘Women in Research and Innovation’ campaign run by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation to encourage more women to choose research careers.