Professor Sara Lombardo recognised with Suffrage Science award

Mathematician and physicist Professor Sara Lombardo has been chosen to receive a prestigious award celebrating the achievements of women in STEM.

Prof Lombardo, of the Department of Mathematical Sciences and an Associate Dean in the School of Science, will be honoured today (6 Nov) at the third Suffrage Science Awards for Mathematics and Computing online celebration.

She is a specialist in the area of integrable systems, a lively area of mathematics bringing together algebra, analysis and geometry to tackle fundamental problems often motivated by mathematical physics.

She was nominated by Loughborough colleague Dr Eugénie Hunsicker – winner of the biannual award in 2018 - for her work in the area of integrable systems.

“I knew about the amazing work done by Dr Hunsicker well before I met her for the first time at Loughborough,” said Prof Lombardo.

“She has influenced so much the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion agenda in Mathematical Sciences in the UK and abroad.

“It is therefore a pleasure and an honour to follow her steps in receiving this award.

“It’s actually quite intimidating looking back at all the amazing women scientists who have received this award over the years, it feels a very good company to be in, though.”

She added: “Despite the progress we have made, there is still a long way to go before we see equal opportunities for women and minorities in science.

“We need to start in the primary school: talking about mathematics with younger children has been an amazing experience, their questions can be incredibly deep and always inspiring.

“In the academia, we need to recognise and promote diversity, it requires constant monitoring, work and will.”

Today, 11 mathematicians and computer scientists who work in STEM fields across the world, will be recognised for their scientific achievements and the work they do to promote maths and computing for the next generation.

The Suffrage Science awards scheme, curated by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, celebrates women in STEM subjects, and encourage others to enter scientific fields and reach senior leadership roles.

The 11 awardees are chosen by the previous award holders for their scientific achievements and ability to inspire others.

This scientific “relay” takes place every two years and creates an inspiring network of women connected by their link to the scheme.

Previous award winner, Dr Hunsicker said: “Professor Lombardo is a brilliant and innovative mathematician with a particular interest in the deep connections between algebra and integrable systems that are of relevance for areas as diverse as mathematical physics and number theory.

“She is a fantastic role model for women in mathematics and has also demonstrated a long-standing commitment to improving diversity in mathematics.

“At the other end of careers, she has been part of the Mathematical Sciences Strategic Advisory Team, working to influence funding policy to bring about better funding outcomes in terms of diversity. In this role she has recently been named as an EDI champion.”

The awards themselves are hand-crafted items of jewellery (pictured) created by art students from Central Saint Martins-UAL, who worked with scientists to design pieces inspired by research and by the Suffragette movement, from which the award scheme takes its name.

At this special “virtual” handover event, award-winning science writer, author and broadcaster, Dr Kat Arney, will lead a discussion on central themes of 2020, in particular the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

A panel of three will discuss the implications of both for women STEM.

The panellists are:

The Suffrage Science scheme was initiated by Professor Dame Amanda Fisher, Director of the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, in 2011.

Prof Fisher said: “The creation of the Maths and Computing Suffrage Sciences Awards in 2016 recognised the increasing importance of mathematics and computing to the life sciences.

“As in all branches of the awards, their purpose is to celebrate women scientists, their scientific achievements and ability to inspire others.

“This is especially important in maths and computing, where women students studying these subjects are still in the minority.

“We are delighted to welcome this year’s awardees into the growing Suffrage Science community of over 130 women from across the globe, and look forward to supporting them to inspire the next generation.”

The 2020 award winners are:

Dr Rhian Daniel

Cardiff University

Dr Juhyun Park

Lancaster University

Professor Apala Majumdar

University of Strathclyde

Professor Bianca de Stavola

University College London

Professor Sara Lombardo

Loughborough University

Professor Wendy Mackay

Inria, Paris-Saclay

Professor Yvonne Rogers

University College London

Professor Alexandra Silva

University College London

Professor Nobuko Yoshida

Imperial College London

Dr Sue Sentance

King’s College London/Raspberry Pi Foundation

Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon


The current award holders (2018) are:

Dr Ruth Keogh

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Dr Tereza Neocleous

University of Glasgow

Dr Nina Snaith

University of Bristol

Dr Daniela De Angelis

MRC BSU/Cambridge

Dr Eugénie Hunsicker

Loughborough University

Professor Sally Fincher

University of Kent

Professor Julie McCann

Imperial College London

Professor Jane Hillston

University of Edinburgh

Professor Ursula Martin

University of Oxford

Dr Hannah Dee

University of Aberystwyth

Dr Vicky Neale

University of Oxford

Over one hundred years after the first women in Britain got the vote, women still make up only 24% of those working in core science, technology, engineering and mathematics occupations in the UK.

Solving the ‘leaky pipeline’ issue is a long-term challenge for maths and computing.

Recent data has revealed that women make up just 13% of students studying computer science or related university courses in the UK.

When you compare that figure to other STEM-related courses, the stark contrast becomes evident. Women studying biology total 61% and of students studying chemistry, 44% are women.

There is a similar lack of females studying mathematics courses – a total of 36% of students

The Suffrage Science jewellery was created by art students from Central St Martins-UAL, who worked with scientists to design pieces inspired by research and the Suffragette movement, from which the award scheme takes its name.

The School of Science congratulates Professor Lombardo on this well-deserved accolade.