Bath-based chemist Asel Sartbaeva has received the WISE World Award from WISE for her pioneering technology allowing vaccines to be stored and transported without refrigeration.
The chemist, whose work helps save lives in parts of the world without electricity, was honoured at a special awards ceremony with Royal Patron of WISE, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal and 400 guests.
Dr Sartbaeva was originally from Kyrgystan where she was the only woman studying chemistry at university. She is now a Royal Society Research Fellow and Lecturer in the department of chemistry at the University of Bath.
She said: “I’m using my skills as a scientist to try and help save lives. One in five children around the world do not receive vaccines and seven million people worldwide die from vaccine-preventable diseases every year.
“I realised that I can use my understanding of silica – the type of materials found in sand – to form a shell that protects a vaccine so we don’t need refrigeration and vaccines won’t spoil, a big problem in some developing countries.
“I’d never have got here if I’d listened to people when I was young who thought that science was just for boys. I want to make sure all girls know that they can do science and do incredible things if that’s what they want.”
The annual WISE Awards are part of a national campaign backed by business and royalty to recognise inspiring organisations and individuals promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to girls and women.
The World Award is sponsored by Babcock International to recognise women making a difference to people’s lives and influencing big societal challenges like the environment, food production, safe transport and cybercrime, using technology, engineering and science.
WISE believes schools and employers can do more to encourage girls with the help of role models like Asel. More women are working in STEM than ever before – the number has grown by 230,000 in the last five years and women now make up 23% of the core STEM workforce.
WISE Chief Executive Helen Wollaston said: “Asel overcame a difficult cultural background to receive a degree from Cambridge University and started her inspiring research into vaccines with a clear vision and focus.
“She is a fantastic example of a woman determined to achieve her goal. I’m so proud that we’ve been able to honour her for the work she is doing at the University of Bath.”