May 27, 2024

A new network by and for women in quantum physics

Mentoring, networking and training: Through the interactive online platform atominnen.at, internationally successful quantum physicist and State Prize winner Francesca Ferlaino wants to promote the role of women in science and research together with her colleagues at IQOQI Innsbruck. The new support network was presented in the run-up to World Quantum Day and in the presence of Women's Minister Susan Raab at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna.

The proportion of women in science will still be dangerously low in 2024. While women still make up the majority of students, this small progress towards a master's degree is beginning to decline. When it comes to PhDs, the numbers have actually changed. The proportion of women among postdoctoral researchers and professors continues to decline. In physics, the proportion of women starts at a low of about 29% of students in Austria. Francesca Ferlaino from the Innsbruck Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) therefore saw the creation of a network with women and men as absolutely essential in order to support the new generation of female physicists and physicists. To encourage them to pursue this challenging and rewarding career path. The “Atom*innen” project creates a space for scientists for scientists in order to transform the sense of isolation felt by many into a sense of community.

A new forum for female researchers

“Everyone in Austria benefits from equality between women and men,” says Women's Minister Susan Raab. “The network founded by Francesca Ferlaino is a pioneering project that not only increases the visibility of women in the natural sciences, but also creates a supportive and empowering community and will ensure that more women bring their ideas and personalities into the study of quantum physics. We will attend,” says Raab.

Heinz Fassmann, President of ÖAW, congratulates Ferlaino on the project: “Francesca Ferlaino is an excellent quantum physicist, a role model for ambitious young scientists and always provides a supportive environment. With the new network, she is creating a forum where colleagues from all over the world can communicate and support each other.” Some ÖAW supports this project to the best of its ability!

“Our colleagues encouraged us and supported us to implement our ideas in this project,” says Francesca Ferlaino. “This has also been made possible thanks to the ongoing support of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. I am very grateful for this community spirit.”

Informing, communicating and setting an example

The Atom*innen project is based on four pillars: Large-scale data collection and statistical analysis provides information about the situation of women in physics and aims to make problems more visible. This means that support can be directed to where it is needed most. The network also creates a separate space where female physicists can share experiences and support each other. The comprehensive collection of information with practical advice and guidance aims to support women in their career path in the natural sciences. In addition, there is a virtual exhibition of female role models to dispel the stereotype that women have to give up other life goals to be successful in science, as well as to get girls interested in physics.

This is implemented by a dedicated team led by Francesca Ferlanio, Gender Officer Angelique Sánchez, Head of Administration Birgitte Weiss-Döpfer, and Assistant Silvia Bonazza at IQOQI Innsbruck and the University of Innsbruck. The project will be accompanied by an international advisory board of scientists, which has not yet been appointed.

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