Promoting female excellence

21 August 2017

The Research Priority Area Sustainable Chemistry bridges experimental and computational sciences and promotes gender balance by supporting FemEx-NL 2017.

With 70% female participants, attending FemEx-NL 2017 was a novel experience for both men and women working in computational and theoretical chemistry. Last June, FemEx-NL 2017 took place for the first time in The Netherlands in the beautiful forests surrounding Putten, a town in the Veluwe, aiming to highlight excellent research by female scientists in computational and theoretical chemistry. Of the 42 lectures presented at FemEx-NL, 80% were given by female scientists, from all over the world.

Wide range of topics

Photo: FemEx.

The programme aimed to cover all of the disciplines in computational and theoretical chemistry. As the programme was without any thematic sessions, large jumps could occur spanning several orders of magnitude in both time and space, when going from one talk to the next. The topics ranged from state of the art developments in density functional theory methods to the study of macromolecular complexes, and from gas-phase calculations to including various environments into account such as solvents and interfaces.

Sustainable chemistry was a topic that occurred in several talks, of which two were sponsored by the UvA Research Priority Area Sustainable Chemistry. Benoît Braïda (Université Pierre et Marie Curie, France) presented a valence bond study of the diradical character of 1,3-dipoles and Mercedes Alonso (Free University Brussels) discussed the role of aromaticity in single molecule switches based on expanded porphyrins.

Gender balance

Photo: FemEx.

For several people attending FemEx-2017 turned out to be a novel experience, as the gender balance was reversed compared to most conferences in the field of male-dominated computational and theoretical chemistry. Several men expressed finally understanding how it feels to be a minority.

Yet many people said that attending FemEx-NL felt very similar to any other conference, as the focus was on science and that was of outstanding quality. One evening was reserved for a discussion on how to improve the position of women, headed by Petra Rudolf (Universiteit Groningen), who provided background on why women disappear from the higher levels in academia.

FemEx-NL 2017 was organized by Ria Broer (University of Groningen), Célia Fonseca Guerra (Leiden University and Free University of Amsterdam), Paola Gori-Giorgi (Free University of Amsterdam), Remco Havenith (University of Groningen and Ghent University) and Jocelyne Vreede (University of Amsterdam).

Published by  HIMS