AsianScientist (Jun. 23, 2021) – What do naval flares, Kevlar and windscreen wipers have in common? They were all invented and patented by trailblazing female engineers. Today, the number of women pursuing careers in engineering and science, while still low, is generally on the rise.
For example, in Japan, women represent just five percent of engineers—one of the widest gender gaps worldwide. However, with leading women like Dr. Miyoko Watanabe and major institutions like the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) stepping up to support diversity and pushing for more female representation, these numbers are expected to change.
As with other STEM fields, there are a variety of possibilities for this pronounced gender gap—family obligations, marginalisation and funding gaps are all potential causes. But those take up the torch as scientists, researchers and engineers excel when they push past such hurdles.
In this feature, we celebrate three award-winning engineers from the Asian Scientist 100 making waves in the region. From environmental systems to nanoelectronics, women are taking over the world of engineering on achievement at a time.
1. Dr. Annabelle Briones: Busting dengue and leading change
Currently the director of the Department of Science and Technology-Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI) in the Philippines, Dr. Annabelle Briones is probably best known for her development of effective ovicidal-larvicidal mosquito traps.
The deceptively simple trap consists only of a black cup with a novel pepper-based solution at its base. The dark environment of the trap attracts mosquitos and any eggs they lay are then killed in the solution. The traps proved extremely successful across several regions. In Leyte, cases of dengue dropped from 190 to just three. For her ingenious design, Briones was awarded the 2020 Gregorio Y. Zara Award for Applied Science Research.
On top of her award-winning mosquito traps, more recently, Briones published her research on recovering and purifying glycerine as a by-product of coconut biodiesel. By separating the aqueous layer from the biodiesel and treating it, Briones was able to efficiently refine what would have been waste into a valuable product that can be used across cosmetics, food and processing industries.
2. Dr. Champika Ellawala Kankanamge: Engineering ecological change
An accomplished engineer and passionate environmental scientists, Dr. Champika Ellawala Kankanamge evaluates the effectiveness of aquatic ecosystem conservation and pollution control methods.
One of the awardees of the 2020 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World, and a professor at the University of Ruhuna in Sri Lanka, Kankanamge’s research focuses on restoring native plants to control invasive species in rivers.
By studying the competitive nature of invasive species and native plants in several different conditions, Kankanamge hopes to slow ecosystem degradation and encourage a thriving habitat.
To benefit local communities, Kankanamge also studies the levels of heavy metals in fish and shellfish in Sri Lanka’s Batticaloa lagoon. As residents are dependent on the river as a source of seafood, Kankanamge’s work lays the foundation for potential solutions that reduce contamination.
3. Dr. Samia Subrina: Working with tiny materials for big breakthroughs
Similarly, Dr. Samia Subrina is also one of the awardees of the 2020 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for Early-Career Women Scientists in the Developing World. Currently a professor at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Subrina’s work reveals how the properties of nanomaterials affects nanoscale devices.
By conducting research on different nanomaterials in a variety of applications and environments, Subrina’s work provides a foundation for the development of nanoscale electronic devices.
Hoping to give back to her country, Subrina is also looking into how nanomaterials can contribute to the production of renewable energy. Given that nanotechnology remains relatively underexplored in Bangladesh, Subrina—as one of the country’s leading experts—continues to lead the charge in a typically male-dominated field.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Ajun Chuah/Asian Scientist Magazine.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.