Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science with an Award-Winning Student Research Team

Standards and Engagement, Chemical Insights, Office of Research Experiences and Education, Fire Safety
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February 8, 2022


Students from Mexico’s National Autonomous University of Nuevo León (UANL) responsible for an award-winning project on synthetic firefighting foams

Each year on Feb. 11, Underwriters Laboratories proudly recognizes the celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This day promotes efforts to bring about gender equality in science and calls on the international community to continue inspiring and supporting women and girls to venture into the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Our organization is committed to helping empower women and girls through the advancement of gender equality in these fields.

This commitment is reflected in our dedication to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – including SDG 5, gender equality – and in our various efforts to create and strengthen initiatives that promote equal access for women and girls to participate in STEM disciplines. 

In 2021, Underwriters Laboratories held a webinar with a research team of approximately 20 students from Mexico’s National Autonomous University of Nuevo León (UANL) to provide feedback and guidance on the students’ award-winning project on synthetic firefighting foams. Additionally, we invited the students to present to members of the international fire protection community during a virtual webinar held in commemoration of Mexico’s National Firefighters’ Day. Later that year, the project won Best Environmental Project and was among the top 10 grand prize finalists at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition.

Screenshot of a presentation by UANL Students on Synbiofoam
 
Eight female students on the UANL team note that they have been inspired to pursue STEM careers largely by seeing examples of other women in science, as well as the need to address local problems with biological solutions.

"One of the things that inspires me a lot is seeing my fellow science students; seeing what other young women are accomplishing at such a young age makes me want to keep going,” said team member Cynthia Elizabeth Valenzuela Chapa. “It inspires me to see my peers winning awards, developing new projects, and breaking stereotypes. In addition, thinking about the impact that biotechnology can have in my country motivates me to continue striving for what I do."

"What inspires me to continue in STEM is to be able to contribute to society with a product that is beneficial and useful for the people of my country or for the world. Knowing that as a young person I’m part of the future of my community motivates me to continue preparing myself to solve more problems that contribute to avoiding pollution and waste of non-renewable substances such as water." - Julissa Janeth García Cepeda, UANL student

"What inspires me to continue in STEM is to be able to contribute to society with a product that is beneficial and useful for the people of my country or for the world,” says team member Julissa Janeth García Cepeda. “Knowing that as a young person I’m part of the future of my community motivates me to continue preparing myself to solve more problems that contribute to avoiding pollution and waste of non-renewable substances such as water." 

Likewise, the UANL team would like to inspire other young women to pursue careers in STEM.

“I would advise all girls and young women not to be afraid to try new things,” Chapa said. “Many times we do not get involved in a project, course, or competition for fear of not being capable enough, but let me tell you that you are 100% capable of achieving everything you set out to do, and when you begin to discover how beautiful science is and all the applications that it can have, they will want to continue to know more and more, and they will not look back.” 

Underwriters Laboratories is proud to support these students in their efforts, which mirror the UL mission of working for a safer world.

“It is so inspiring to see young women getting excited about math and science and applying the STEM concepts to innovate sustainable firefighting foams,” said Sonya Bird, director of international standards at Underwriters Laboratories. “I celebrate the contributions of these young women and I look forward to following their efforts to help in making the world a safer and more sustainable place.”