The Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (HBCSE), in collaboration with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), has initiated the Vigyan Vidushi – 2023 program to address the gender imbalance in the field of Physics at the doctoral level. The program brings together 40 women students from various institutes across India who have recently completed their first year of MSc in Physics. Over the course of the program, these students will gain exposure to advanced physics courses and be encouraged to conduct innovative experiments.
The Vigyan Vidushi summer program was first launched in 2020 by TIFR’s HBCSE as an initiative to empower female students pursuing Physics at the MSc level. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has successfully continued, and for the first time, it will be held in a residential mode at HBCSE from 12th June to 1st July, 2023.
Professor Nanal (TIFR), Convenor of Vigyan Vidushi -2023, emphasizing the global concern over the gender gap in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), highlighted the acute problem of gender imbalance in Physics in India. Studies conducted in select Physics departments of elite research institutes in India indicate that only around 23% of doctorate-level students in Physics are female. This complex issue requires a multi-faceted approach, including mentoring, networking, and gender sensitization in science education, as recommended by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
Vigyan Vidushi, dedicated exclusively to postgraduate female students, represents a significant step toward addressing the under-representation of women in science in India. The program aims to provide mentoring, enhance networking skills, and promote gender sensitization among the participants. It serves as a platform for interactive sessions on research careers in physics, lectures by accomplished women scientists, group discussions, building self-confidence, addressing gender-related challenges, and introducing Physics Education research. Additionally, the students will have the opportunity to visit research laboratories at TIFR in Colaba and the Giant Metrowave Radio Telescope (GMRT) near Pune. The students will be inspired and mentored by successful women scientists, serving as role models.
The selection process for the program involved reviewing 500 applications from across the country, including the North-Eastern regions. The 40 participants were chosen based on their academic profiles and recommendation letters. As part of the Vigyan Vidushi workshop, they will visit various research institutions. This pioneering initiative by TIFR aims to expand in the coming years, benefitting a larger number of aspiring female scientists.