The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Science glass ceiling cracks

New Delhi, May 30: Now’s the time for Lawrence Summers to eat crow, or, in his own words, “turn back the clock”.

Four months after the Harvard University head stirred a storm in Cambridge (Massachusetts) by suggesting women do not have the same natural ability in math and sciences as men, five female scientists have been awarded the Inlaks scholarship for 2005.

Not that the achievement would change either Summers’s opinion ' although the gentleman did say sorry ' or the “innate differences” between the sexes that he talks of, but it surely is indication that, like in several other areas, women are slowly breaking through the scientific glass ceiling.

“The scientific side of India is emerging and women are taking leadership. It is very good,” beamed Inlaks Foundation director Count Nicolo Sella di Monteluce, after reaching the end of the long hunt for suitable candidates.

“We reach the path that our peers don’t reach.”

The famous five headed either to the US or the UK are Shipra Arya, who will study epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health; Divya Punwani, 2004 Rhodes finalist who has bagged rare funding to study immunology at Oxford; Tesmi Jose, who will study marine geophysics at the University of Southampton; Shweta Singhal, who will do stem cell research to regenerate the retina at the University College of London; and Pratika Dayal, who will study galaxy formation at the University of Sussex.

In contrast ' this could make the gentleman from Harvard cringe a little more ' a solitary male scientist, Ashwin Sai Narayan, will head to Cambridge to study genomics.

There were more words of praise reserved for the five ladies. Inlaks Foundation trustee and former vice-chancellor of Oxford University, Sir Colin Lucas, said: “My role is to try and identify which of them' has the most potential to do something interesting. This time, the women scientists are very interesting. They are really very good.”

The remaining four Inlaks scholarships ' only 10 are awarded each year ' were bagged by humanities and fine arts students. They are Annette Phillip, who will study at the Berkley College of Music in London; Rajashri Ghosh, a graphic designer headed for the University College of Los Angeles; Arjun Krishnan, who will study law at Oxford; and Abir Bashir, who will study Kashmir and its medieval history at the University of Chicago.

Another Inlaks Foundation trustee and director of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Vir Singh Chauhan, said the dominance of scientists this year indicated a changing trend.

“Inlaks has never been dominated by science. We are starting to lose interest in philosophy, history, English'. But the scientists we have picked are in it for the long term.”

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