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NASA scientist addresses students of University of Science and Technology Meghalaya (USTM)

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NEDP Staff Report, 11th February, 2023: To amplify the critical role that women can and do play in science and technology, the University of Science and Technology Meghalaya (USTM) today organised a capacity-building workshop on “Gender Mainstreaming in Science and Innovative Policymaking” as part of the celebration of UN International Day of Women & Girls in Science 2023 & UNESCO International Day of Light 2023 Phase-1. Dr Hashima Hasan, Program Scientist and Astrophysicist, NASA, USA, addressed the workshop as the chief guest along with the other speakers, namely Prof Arvinder A Ansari from Jamia Millia Islamia and Prof Zahid H Khan from New Delhi. The workshop was organised by the Sociology & Physics departments of USTM, in collaboration with CSSEIP, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

The workshop began with the welcome address delivered by Prof GD Sharma, Vice Chancellor of USTM. Shri Mahbubul Hoque, Chancellor of USTM, also addressed the participants and mentioned that USTM has always emphasised girls’ education. “Our dream of USTM students working at NASA will be realised”, he added.

Dr Hashima Hasan from NASA made an online presence and shared her journey with NASA’s Hubble and JWST Observatories. Alumnus of AMU and PhD from the University of Oxford, Dr Hasan has worked directly with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990 and James Webb Space Telescope, which was launched in 2021.

Making a presentation of her journey, she said that she was first introduced to the space age when she saw Sputnik go like a shooting star in the sky of Lucknow. “It was after Independence. At a time when schools did not offer science as a subject for girl students, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to study science as we were the first batch in Loreto Convent Girls’ High School at Lucknow to take science, which helped me to pursue my passion and do my bachelor’s degree from Lucknow University in 1968 and MSc in Physics from AMU in 1970 before doing PhD from the University of Oxford with a scholarship”, she added. The astrophysicist made a detailed deliberation on various space telescopes and also had an interactive session with the students of USTM.

Addressing the workshop, Prof Arvinder A Ansari, Director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policy (CSEIP), Jamia Millia Islamia stated, “Women are involved in all aspects of life, but when we come to science and technology, women are invisible. “UNESCO has emphasised environment and women because the gatekeepers of the environment are women. Therefore, it is important to understand science from a feminist perspective”. She emphasised that the contribution of women in science and technology should be made visible.

Prof Zahid H Khan, Former Professor, Physics, Jamia Millia Islamia and National Node India for International Day of Light 2023 also addressed the workshop. The workshop highlighted the relationship between women in science and how women have been made invisible in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.