The Avril McDonald Memorial Fund
Every quarter, we share articles published in the BCN Newsletter and we are happy today to share a story written by Elouise Koops on the Avril McDonald Memorial Fund that is organised by Rosalind Frankling fellows from the RUG. This year, four PhD students and brilliant starting scientists received this award.
A staggering 81 percent of elementary teachers are women, and to them a fundamental portion of the education of new generations is entrusted. However, those numbers are distinctly different in the academic world, where most of the tenure-track chairs are occupied by men; only 15.7 percent of full-time professors in the Netherlands are female. This is staggering, considering that half of the students and graduates of Dutch universities are female. A steady decline in those numbers is seen with every step on the academic career ladder: from half of the graduates, to 43 percent of PhD candidates, to 31 percent of university teachers, to 18 percent of associate professors which eventually results in 15.7 percent of professors being female.
In 2007, the University of Groningen initiated the Rosalind Franklin Fellowship programme which aims to attract talented female international researchers. In 2010 one of the Rosalind Franklin Fellows passed away unexpectedly. She was a very passionate researcher who excelled in the field of International Law. The Rosalind Franklin Fellowship decided to establish a fund in her name and encourage promising young female scientists: the Avril McDonald Memorial Fund. In this way the Rosalind Franklin Fellows and the Avril McDonald Memorial Fund together take it upon themselves to enable the pursuit of an academic career for female students.
All faculties and research areas at the University of Groningen can nominate a master’s student, and each year 3-4 prizes are awarded, with no more than one prize going to each faculty. Students granted the award, receive 1000 euros to develop a PhD-proposal which can be submitted to the RUG, NWO or any other body she may choose. Moreover, a Rosalind Franklin Fellow is appointed as a mentor to each grantee during the proposal writing as well as the actual PhD-project.
As part of this, an annual charity fundraising dinner is hosted on the last Friday of the holidays, before the start of the academic year. Great food, musical entertainment and prizes donated by the fellows and local businesses and, of course, good company has made this dinner a great success for the last three years. The Avril McDonald Memorial Fund is a great initiative that helps students to achieve a change in the unequal distribution of ‘robes of office’.
Elouise Koops is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the University of Groningen. Her doctoral work will be on the origins of tinnitus, a condition affecting more than 10% of the population. This article first appeared in the 95th issue of the Newsletter in September 2014 and is re-published here with permission.
NOTE: Photos by Deniz Başkent and Sander Martens