A few years ago, Ana Rita Barradas looked at the stars and wanted to know more about them. When he was in secondary school, he looked for more information and ordered many books on physics and astronomy from the library. “I read a lot about it and fell in love,” he says now at the age of 21. Astronomy eventually led her to the physical engineering course at the University of Coimbra. She is currently President of Physis – Portuguese Association of Physics Students. This Thursday she will take part in the debate: International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This Thursday marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
University takes a lot of time and Ana Rita Barradas is no longer devoting herself to reading about astronomy, as she would like. “This passion has become a bit more forgotten,” the student confesses. But he quickly tells us that he has gained other passions: “I really like condensed matter physics!” The truth is that the physical engineering course showed you new worlds. Now he has a Masters in Instrumentation and says he has developed a “special interest” in the field of machine learning (automatic learning). In the last semester he even had the opportunity to develop a project in this area of condensed matter physics. The aim was to study machine learning behavior across a range of material combinations and assess the energy associated with each combination.
Ana Rita Barradas is not only fascinated by the course material. “The environment between teachers and students is very friendly,” he reveals. Also, since your course doesn’t have many students, the students can be close together and encourage mutual help from all.
The number of boys in her course is higher than that of girls, but the student says the percentage difference between boys and girls in physics and physics courses in the country has narrowed over the years. “When we look at the national competition for access to higher education, we see that the trend is increasingly in line with the number of girls and boys,” he says. Let’s look at some examples. According to data from the first phase of the National Competition for Access to Higher Education, between 26 and 36% of girls took physics courses in the country in 2019. In the physical engineering courses, between 30 and 41% took part.
Ana Rita Barradas in a Physis DR activity
Although the number of women in these courses is increasing, Ana Rita Barradas does not forget that the scenario was already very different. “Although I think this topic is becoming more of a talking point, the ‘power’ of men is still ingrained in science. Almost 80 years ago we only saw men who worked in science. “
Over the years, the student said on her course that she had noticed a certain dropout rate, but those who stay “gain a lot of space in their relevance to science”. And you have references in your area: the director of the physics department at the University of Coimbra is Constança Providência. He also believes that the fact that more women have won Nobel Prizes in recent years could motivate more girls to choose the path of physics. These types of awards can be of such importance that Ana Rita Barradas has Marie Curie, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911, as another of her references. ”
Ana Rita Barradas ultimately devotes her free time to clubs and finds a good weight here for women in physics. The presidents of the physics student groups in Porto, Aveiro and the Instituto Superior Técnico are women. Through physics, it also motivates other people to like physics. To like? In developing activities for secondary education or in organizing debates on the funding or future of physics in the country.
This Thursday at 6 p.m. the online debate that you will be attending will be International Women and Girls in Science Day. This session is organized by the Laboratory for Instrumentation and Experimental Particle Physics and the Portuguese Physics Society. In addition to Ana Rita Barradas, João Sobrinho Teixeira (State Secretary for Science, Technology and Higher Education) will also take part. Beatriz Gomes Dias (deputy of Bloco de Esquerda and teacher); Helena Pereira (President of the Science and Technology Foundation); Negesse Pina (representative of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education in the Commission on Citizenship and Gender Equality); and Teresa Firmino (journalist at PÚBLICO).
The cycle of workshops for girls in engineering and technology also begins on this Thursday. This cycle started with the Secretary of State for Citizenship and Equality and is coordinated by the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality in collaboration with the Portuguese Association for Diversity and Inclusion, the Instituto Superior Técnico and the Ordem dos Engenheiros. The initiative runs from February to May and is expected to reach over 2000 students in online sessions. The first hot engineering this Thursday is science? (at 10 a.m.) and One Small Step for Women … One Big Step for Humanity (at 2.30 p.m.).
The Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences (IA) is celebrating this day with the online session Astronomy for Women, attended by Teresa Lago, Secretary General of the International Astronomical Union, and IA researchers Catarina Lobo, Margarida Cunha, Lara Sousa and Gabriella Gilli. The session begins at 9 p.m. on the IA’s YouTube channel.