International Women's Day Women in Battery Research

2021-03-08

March 8th is International Women's Day. We choose to celebrate women in battery research. We want to recognize the critical role women and girls play in science and technology.

We took the opportunity to ask some of the female researchers within the BATTERY 2030+ consortium about how they got into science and what they think needs to be done to get more women into the field of battery research:

1. What is your research about?
2. Why did you choose to get into science?
3. What needs to be done to get more women into the field of battery research?

Silvia Bodoardo, Associate Professor, Politecnico di Torino, Italy

1). “I am leading the Electrochemistry Group at Politecnico di Torino, where we are working on innovative materials for lithium based batteries. In particular our work focuses on post lithium ion technologies to enhance properties and increase performance. Some new activities are on novel cells design to get new type of cells combining high energy and high power.” 

2). “Curiosity… the curiosity to understand natural processes came first. Today it is more on how we can use natural phenomena to obtain new sustainable storage systems to help the transition to renewable energies and electric vehicles.”

3). “We really need to get visibility to show how women are not worse than men in all fields. We need to stress that education has to be accessible to all gender equally. This process should start already at the secondary school and in families.”

“We also need to disseminate our results in society and be more present in media.”

Kristina Edström, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and Coordinator of BATTERY 2030+, Uppsala University, Sweden

1). “I study different kinds of batteries and battery materials. I am particularly interested in mechanisms for how ions are transported in solids. I am also interested in how different materials react in the interface to each other to understand what parameters that make batteries to last for a long time when used in an application.”

2). “I have always been interested in scientific questions. I liked to study already as a small child. I think I was very much inspired by questions rather than answers. My heroes were people that said that there was still needs to study and understand more about something.”

3). “We need to show the love for science rather than discussing the difficulties and obstacles. We need to give young scientists good conditions so that they see that there is a long-term commitment.”

“At younger age I do think that not choosing to specialize too young on a specific direction is important. Role models are also important and then to show normal people that can combine science with a family.”

Dr. Julia Maibach, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany

1). Together with my team, I explore surface and interface phenomena in rechargeable batteries. We mainly use various photoelectron spectroscopy techniques but also work on bringing together different and complementary analytical techniques. We focus on understanding and improving the processes leading to the solid electrolyte interphase on negative electrodes in lithium ion batteries but also expand to post-Li battery chemistries.

2). I have always been excited to learn and driven by curiosity. Working in science, I get to follow those passions every day. I also got fascinated by experimental work early on during my studies and I still enjoy experiments with all its ups and downs. The struggles and failures are immediately forgotten in these moments of success when you realize that you just observed or understood something, that nobody has before you.

3). We will find the best and most innovative solutions to the challenges in battery research working together in diverse teams across all disciplines. So, spread the word! I try to share my passion for materials science and battery research in my teaching and every other opportunity to inspire students to join this exciting research field.

I myself have been inspired by amazing female battery scientists that effortlessly combine an academic career and family life and it has given me the confidence to do the same. I truly hope to follow in their footsteps. 

Montse Casas-Cabanas, Scientific coordinator (Electrochemical Energy Storage), Ikerbasque research associate, CIC energiGUNE, Spain

1). The core of my research is to design, prepare and characterize materials for the development of next generation battery chemistries. We employ cost-efficient synthetic processes, with a focus on sustainability and recyclability, in combination with scattering, imaging, and spectroscopic techniques to develop fundamental understanding in structure-property correlations.  I have a background and experience in electrode reaction mechanisms through the use of operando experiments and, in particular, in the study of the impact of structural disorder and defects in the electrochemical performance, for which I pioneered the development of the FAULTS software. We are now developing an automatic and autonomous platform which, combined with artificial intelligence algorithms, will be capable of making effective predictions of the result of automatic experiments. This will allow to reduce the time and cost without precedent in the development of new materials for batteries.

2). I have always been very curious and eager to learn. As a child I used to ask a lot of questions and was tremendously interested about how things work or why things happened, so science always felt as my natural career path. However, I still had a hard time when I had to drop literature, languages or arts and start specializing in sciences, and chemistry in particular. Later I realized that there are amazing opportunities in science for meeting new people and different cultures, I have now friends from all over the world! I also had great teachers and mentors that nourished my passion for science, to which I am extremely grateful. One of the reasons why I love being a battery researcher is that, despite we are highly specialized, our field is totally multidisciplinary. We are constantly learning and facing new challenges and this continuously renews my self-motivation. 

3). There is a lot we can do at different levels as we still need to break down many gender stereotypes in battery research, and in STEM jobs in general. We must give visibility to women working in the field. I strongly believe that having female referents can make a real difference in female career expectations, starting and a very early age. It is also important that we support and mentor other women, creating opportunities and enriching our professional networks, having female role models and mentors has been transformative for me. Gender balance should also be seriously taken into account in companies and institutions, we’ll get more women into our fields only if we hire women! And obviously gender equality, childcare and dependent care policies in the labour market make an enormous impact. In Spain, where I live, paternity leave was only two weeks until five years ago, which created a huge bias in female careers. In recent years the situation is improving (for example today both parents enjoy today the same rights), but there is still a lot to be done to end with the “female caregiver” and “male breadwinner” model in our society.