Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell smiling at the camera.

My greatest desire is not to be the only woman on a committee or a slate of speakers as so often happens just now. I know this won’t go on forever, so I’m making the most of it while I can!

Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Growing up in Northern Ireland, my parents promised me I could study science when I went to secondary school. When I came home in the first week to tell them that I had been sent to cookery class because I was a girl and only boys were allowed to study science, they hit the roof and called the school. In the next lesson, three girls joined the science class and that term I came top of the class.

I went on to study Physics at Glasgow University where I was the only woman alongside 49 men in the honours year. Although I am now well retired, I have a visiting position at Oxford University and keep
in touch with the major developments in those parts of astrophysics that particularly interest me. I do lots of public outreach astronomy talks, speaking to all sorts of bodies – schools, college students, university departments, professional bodies and astronomical societies. I enjoy it and am flattered to be asked! I like meeting people and explaining science to both the interested and the terrified. I particularly welcome the opportunity to visit other countries and speak there.

I’m involved with a lot of committee work for my professional bodies and write references, judge applications and recommend funding. I hope my visibility demonstrates that women can be good scientists – particularly the physical sciences – and effective members of the scientific community. I also hope my presence reminds those who judge applications that unconscious bias can skew their judgement, and to take the trouble to be fair.

Jocelyn co-discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967 whilst at the University of Cambridge and was credited with “one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century”. The discovery was recognised by the award of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics. Despite the fact that she was the first to observe the pulsars, this was not recognised by her male colleagues and she was not one of the recipients of the prize. Jocelyn was the first woman to be President of the RSE from 2014 to 2018. In 2018, she was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. She donated the whole of the £2.3 million prize money to help fund research by women in physics, those in ethnic minorities and refugee students who do not have the same privileges that many who wish to prosper in physics hold. 


Meet Scotland’s Women in Science

I‘m an Immunologist by training and believe that fighting infection through the same or similar mechanisms which the body’s immune
I’m a Human Geneticist but there’s nothing in my past that suggests that that’s what I would become. My journey
I currently lead a major project sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Civil Engineering Contractor, BAM Nuttall,
I am a Soft Matter and Biological Physicist, which means I study anything that wobbles when you poke it. Professor
Working as a teenage Mary Poppins on a summer ‘dude ranch’ in Texas, I found myself fearing that my brain
Transformative innovations in medicine and public health require triple helix collaborations between the NHS, academia, and industry. Professor Dame Anna
As a child, I used to sit down every week and watch Star Trek, with all its iPads, body scanners,
My greatest desire is not to be the only woman on a committee or a slate of speakers as so
I wanted to be a scientist for as long as I can remember, and I went to university to study
I am an Anatomist and a Forensic Anthropologist. By exploring the intricacies and variability of the human body, my disciplines
I am a Synthetic Chemist who, in general terms, can be described as a molecular architect. Our research focuses on
I am a Clinical Academic and have the privilege of working with patients. This offers me the opportunity to understand
I’ve always liked mathematics, even as a small child. I liked its rigour and simplicity, but I came to realise
My research involves developing the technique of surface-enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) for multiplexed bioanalytical applications. Professor Karen Faulds Raman involves
I loved science from an early age. I loved doing experiments, loved mathematical challenges, loved problem-solving. I was fortunate to
I am an Environmental Hydrologist with a BSc in Environmental Sciences. I did a PhD in Wetland Hydrochemistry that inspired
I am a Pharmacologist and studied Pharmacology at Edinburgh University, both for my BSc and PhD. I was always interested
I have a natural curiosity for knowledge, so research and university are natural fits for me. I came to Scotland
I was born in Dundee and grew up in Ireland in a family of scientists. My parents were scientists involved
I’ve always been interested in biology. I was that child who got the frog spawn out of the pond and
I make unusual molecules from the metals at the bottom ofthe periodic table. We don’t know enough about their bonding,and
I am an Engineer who works in academia. I was the first woman to be Professor of Chemical Engineering in
I was Professor of Dermatology at the University of Glasgow 1978–2000, the first time in its 500-year history that a
I am an Applied Statistician. I develop new methods and techniques for analysing different types of data, particularly in the
Although I was always interested in science at school back in Liverpool, my first aim in life was to be
I’m an Experimental Physicist. I carry out research designing and building instrumentation for observatories that have detected the first gravitational