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Opening of Maria Sklodowska-Curie exhibit prompts call for more women in science

The opening of an exhibit at the Leddy Library dedicated to the female scientist who discovered radium – which revolutionized diagnostic imaging and the treatment of cancer – provided a perfect opportunity to address the need to encourage more women to pursue studies and careers in hard sciences.

“We’ve seen significant and encouraging numbers of women earning doctoral degrees in fields such as health sciences, but it’s still a challenge to get them in to pursue sciences such as chemistry, physics and computer science,” UWindsor Dean of Science Marlys Koschinsky said Friday at the opening of the exhibit, dedicated to the life of Maria Sklodowska-Curie.

The United Nations has declared 2011 to be the International Year of Chemistry, marking the centennial of Sklodowska-Curie’s second Nobel Prize. To honour the occasion, the Leddy Library lobby will host an exhibition – co-sponsored by the Polish Canadian Business and Professional Association of Windsor and the Polonia Centre of Windsor – about the life and achievements of the Warsaw-born chemist.

Together with her husband, Curie was awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, for their study into the spontaneous radiation discovered by Henri Becquerel, who was awarded the other half of the prize. In 1911 she received a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry, in recognition of her work in radioactivity. That marked the only occasion in the history of the prize that someone has won it twice.

Clayton Smith, vice-provost, students and international, spoke briefly at Friday’s opening. He noted that the University is proud of the women who teach as full-time faculty members and acknowledged the need to get more females into those roles. According to the statistics he provided, about 39 percent of the university’s faculty are female with the highest numbers in nursing and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. About 23 percent of the Faculty of Science are women. At 14 percent, only the Faculty of Engineering had fewer.

Dr. Koschinsky said Sklodowska-Curie is a magnificent inspiration to scientists all over the world, and particularly to women scientists.

“She is undoubtedly one of the most significant scientists in history, both in terms of the importance and influence of her work as well as her pioneering role as a pre-eminent woman in her field,” she said.

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