February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Today’s Marie Curies are busy building space rockets, inventing drugs, and protecting computer networks from hackers. For example, Ekaterina Proshkina found a way to prolong life by half, a Syrian Samara from Samara University figured out how to improve the quality of network connections, Alexandra Danilenko learned to predict personality qualities, and a Brazilian from Samara University Berger Ohana is building a nanosatellite with LEDs. Smart and beautiful women told Komsomolka how it feels to be in modern science.
LEDs for a nanosatellite
Berger Ohana, 27, of Brazil, is a student in the master’s program of the Department of Space Research at Samara University. Berger is convinced that space research can take mankind a huge step forward.
“We use the Internet, watch TV, talk on the phone: it’s all about space. Studying this area is very important. Personally, I do research on nanosatellites (small satellites). They help test new technologies. Besides, they are many times cheaper.”
Now the young woman is developing a nanosatellite with LEDs. So far the project is in its early days, but Berger has high hopes for it.
“If I can prove the effectiveness of LEDs in space, then this technology can be used in various fields. For example, to track space debris. That’s a big problem at the moment,” Berger says. “It’s hard to predict the exact location of the space debris encircling our planet. Thanks to the LED it will be possible to optically track solid waste. This will simplify many tasks.”
According to the Brazilian girl’s observations, modern female researchers are slowly but surely taking over the world of science. Especially in Russia.
“In my home country I studied in the same specialty as I do here. As far as I remember, there were only 26 girls out of the 260 who were admitted. In Russia I see a different picture. In both my bachelor and master programs, half of my group is girls,” Berger Ohana says. “There are many female teachers here, too. I think there may be cases of discrimination, but there are increasingly fewer of them.”
Graduating as a psychologist for the sake of science
Alexandra Danilenko, Сandidate of Technical Sciences, Associate Professor at the Department of Software Systems at Samara University, never planned to tie her life to science. She finished the secondary school and entered the Faculty of Information Technology at the University, and at the age of 21 created a system for predicting professionally significant personality qualities.
“In my fourth year of study, I became fascinated by the topic of developing an automated system of psychological tests for career guidance. I was really into it,” says Alexandra. “Only all the psychologists I knew refused to help, saying that soulless metal cannot understand a person’s desires. So, I went to study in the Psychology Department.”
Today Alexandra’s project is successfully implemented in 10 organizations in different cities of Russia. And Alexandra already has new ideas, projects and plans.
“Now the team and I are trying to understand how a personality manifests itself in social media,” says the scientist. “Science for me is true creativity. There is freedom here.”
Alexandra is sure that there is no discrimination against women in modern science.
“Yes, we live in a man’s world, men are in charge of almost everything. However, if a woman achieves a result, then her authorship will not be hidden from the world. And it’s not easy to create something worthwhile, either for a woman or a man. The main thing is to love what you do, to believe in it, and not to be influenced by stereotypes.”
Accurate diagnosis instead of raw numbers
Irina Matveeva from Samara was introduced to the world of science in her student years by her male teacher.
“I came and said, I also want to do science and biotechnology. The professor saw my potential and began to teach me,” Irina says.
It all started with simple IT tasks, and today the 27-year-old researcher works in the Photonics research lab.
“I analyze data from medical devices. I want to improve medical equipment, so that the doctor does not get simply raw numbers, but an immediate diagnosis or an improved chart.”
Irina believes that the main female qualities that help her in her work are persistence and resistance to despair.
“In science, you spend 90 % of the time on mistakes,” says the girl. “So, if something doesn’t work out, don’t get discouraged. Luck is rare, but it does the thing!”
Ekaterina Proshkina, Candidate of Biological Sciences , Senior Researcher at the Institute of Biology of the Komi Scientific Center of the Ural Branch of the RAS, has found a way to prolong life by half. And it’s all thanks to the Drosophila flies: it turns out that their genome is 80 % identical to that of humans.
“I conduct research on Drosophila fruit flies: they reproduce quickly, live two to three months, so in a short while you can study many processes from birth to death and get a lot of valuable scientific data,” says Ekaterina. “The genome of this fly is already well known. We can study the functional intricacies of a certain gene and influence them, among other things, to challenge aging.”
Ekaterina Proshkina has much to be proud of. The researcher prolonged the life of a Drosophila by 70 %, i.e. almost twice as much.
“To do this, we increased the activity of the genes responsible for repairing DNA damage in the flies. This method for prolonging life was used for the first time in the world.”
For this development, the scientist was awarded the Presidential Prize in 2016.
The allergen cannot pass
Vladislava Khramenkova entered Saint Petersburg State Chemical Pharmaceutical University in “Chemical Technology” after graduating from high school. However, right after her first year she decided to change a university. No, she did not lose interest. On the contrary. Vladislava decided to dig deeper. Now the talented young woman is studying for her master’s degree at ITMO University in the SCAMT Chemistry and Biology Cluster in “Molecular Biology”. At the same time, she is deeply engaged in scientific research. Vladislava already has several large-scale projects in her portfolio.
“I am currently developing test systems to detect allergens in food products, and we are already in talks with investors. This project is based on my scientific developments: I am researching new hybrid molecules that will replace all the well-known antibody-antigen complexes,” says Vladislava Khramenkova. “The advantage of these hybrid molecules is that their development does not require testing on animals. Such sensors are more sensitive and target-specific. I am currently developing test systems for allergens in food products, but in the future I want to expand the capabilities of these sensors to detect allergens in human blood. I am glad that today the popularity of science is growing, and since school children understand that science is very exciting. Plus, the state invests in the development of scientific institutions and research universities, which is also an incentive for young scientists.”
The girl admits that she has found her place. Science for her is creativity and intellect in perfect combination. The beauty also took part in the show “Challenge” on TNT in 2022 and managed to completely captivate the audience.
Protects against network attacks
Postgraduate student Samara Mayhub came to Russia from Syria. For three years the girl studied in Moscow. After that she received a quota for postgraduate studies. The researcher chose Samara University. Here the Syrian woman is working on a program that will help analyze the quality of network connections as accurately as possible and identify network bandwidth problems.
“There is a lot of pressure on the network because of the frequent use of the Internet during remote work and video conferencing, which are now popular,” Samara explains. “I really like doing this line of work. I’ve always been attracted to net-related subjects. At the University, we work without simulators and use operating equipment. This is awesome!”
A craving for science did not prevent Samara from learning a new language. The girl passionately reads books in Russian, watches Russian movies and adores songs by Anna Herman.