In an interview for Tec Review, the President of the Mexican Academy of Sciences explains that female STEM students should not be allowed to get discouraged.
Susana Lizano, President of the Mexican Academy of Sciences (AMC) grew up in a conservative family. Her parents did not criticize her or worry about her when she decided to study mathematics… they thought that as soon as she got married, she would stop working.
But the researcher decided to look further afield, to the stars. Much of her work has focused on a question that fascinates her: How are stars formed?
We need more women
In July of this year, the scientist took the helm of the AMC. In an interview for Tec Review, Lizano explains that as she sees it, young people’s lack of interest in studying degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is due to the way in which these subjects are taught at the basic levels.
“We need to encourage young people in general, but we need to encourage women to study STEM degrees. Also, we have to ensure that they don’t get discouraged and drop out because society demands a role that is nothing more than that of a professional. That makes them stop following their dreams and studying,” she adds.
The astronomer also talks about the challenges that students of all levels now have when taking classes remotely. She says that the country was not prepared for these types of classes and is learning as it goes.
“I think it’s very difficult for them. They’ve lived with video games and television and now, suddenly, there’s a teacher on-screen demanding their attention and trying to explain something to them. It’s very static for them. I don’t feel like you can ask them for robotic attention.”
How are the stars of the universe formed?
Susana Lizano Soberón’s work has developed around this question. Since she was a child, she had a taste for mathematics and decided to study Physics at the Faculty of Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where she shared the classroom with four women and the rest were men.
For her, specializing in astronomy topics, such as star formation, is an act of humility.
“I believe that studying astronomy gives you an insight into your role in the cosmos. We are very small, a fragile race, and we’re on a planet that won’t endure,” she explains.
The President of the AMC states that she arrived at her subject of studying the stars by chance. She had a teacher who gave her a class on the matter between the stars and what phenomena it causes when it explodes or when a star is born.
“He was demonstrating something that we call gas dynamics. This field uses mathematics to understand how gas moves, compresses and everything that happens in a phenomenon of this type. I loved it and I was passionate about how it applied mathematics,” she says.
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She recently began to study the origin of planetary systems and says she is fascinated about that the subject of sending robots to Mars, to see photographs of what the landscape is like, and all the information that is obtained about the solar system.
“I believe that each day we’re learning more and more information and I’m excited about what’s happening on the moons of Jupiter or on Pluto. Also, the fact that the United States has a plan to send a manned spacecraft (very soon) to Mars seems very exciting to me and testifies to the capacity of human beings,” she added.
She says that businessman Elon Musk, as well as the way in which his company, SpaceX, has worked with NASA to carry out these missions and commit to the future of space tourism, seems very interesting.
An opportunity, despite Covid-19
The scientist said that taking over as President of the AMC in the midst of the pandemic has been challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to update and adapt the activities offered by the institution such as robotics workshops for children and the Sunday in science program, which have had to be developed virtually.
“The Academy requires resources for the programs it carries out and that will be a great challenge in the economic crisis that is to come. The country has a very good scientific community with international recognition and it has become very clear during this pandemic as to its role and how necessary it is to solve problems such as Covid-19; hopefully, there won’t be any more budget cuts for Science and Technology. Investing in science will pay off in the long term,” she says.