Women’s Day: “Outstanding scientist” Samaya Nissanke receives diversity award

8 March 2021

Physicist Samaya Nissanke of the University of Amsterdam and Nikhef will receive the prestigious Suffrage Award on 8 March International Women’s Day 2021. She will receive the accompanying challenge jewel from her predecessor, Groningen researcher Amina Helmi, who nominated her.

The prize is awarded for “outstanding science, science communication and support of women in STEM”. This is the tenth time that the Suffrage Awards have been given to women in the natural sciences. Initially, the award was for researchers in the life sciences. For five years, there has also been the special Suffrage Award for Engineering and Natural Sciences, which Nissanke is now receiving.

A total of 12 women will be awarded in a live online ceremony Monday in London. The award-winning researchers will receive a special jewel as a badge of honor, which they will pass on to subsequent winners after one year.

Samaya Nissanke, a British national of Japanese and Sri Lankan parents, has been doing cutting-edge research on gravitational waves for years, as well as being very active in outreach and diversity in science. She was a member of the team that observed the first-ever mergers of black holes and neutron stars in 2017 with the Virgo and LIGO detectors.

Team Nissanke.

She also chairs the Committee for Equality and Inclusion in Dutch Astronomy. Her own research group at GRAPPA at the UvA is emphatically very diverse. ‘A fervent and dedicated advocate for diversity and inclusion in science and beyond,’ Helmi says in her plea to Nissanke. Astronomer Amina Helmi received the award in 2019.

The organizers of the Suffrage Science Awards emphasize that in the sciences, the minimum of 30 percent women is still not being met that would initiate real change in these seemingly male-dominated fields. The proportion of women from non-Western minorities is even much smaller.