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Celebrating the Inspiring Women in Gateway

Celebrating the Inspiring Women in Gateway

SEFARI Gateway Women

Over the centuries women have led the way in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) making life changing discoveries, especially here in Scotland. This International Women’s Day we’re shining a light on some of the inspiring women we have working with us at Gateway.

In this blog, we’ll learn more about Professor Lorna Dawson, Michelle McWilliams, Dr. Michelle Wilson-Chalmers, Dr. Chrizelle Krynauw and Tiyan Osahon who are striving to make a difference and are eager to inspire the next generation.

Just stand up for yourself, follow your dream and ignore the bullies (of any sex)... they are vexations to the spirit. You know you can make a difference, work hard follow your ideas, passions, and remember to be kind. “ – Professor Lorna Dawson

“Don't ever let yourself think, or anyone tell you, 'you can't do something' as you can. Science is all about being curious and persevering. So work hard, learn from those around you and dream big!” – Dr. Michelle Wilson-Chalmers

“Be kind to yourself. In Biological Sciences delays are normal and could be frequent, especially when your research depends upon studying microbes.” – Dr. Chrizelle Krynauw

“Find out more about the range of opportunities, there are way more than you think.” - Michelle McWilliams

“A lot of the embargos that prevented my younger self from going into a core science career are no longer there. Young girls are now lucky that there are lots of opportunities and encouragements to pursue a career in science, so I would say to young girls “go for it.” – Tiyan Osahon


SEFARI Gateway is Scotland’s Centre of Expertise for knowledge exchange and innovation and one of the people who is an integral part of it is Gateway’s manager Dr Michelle Wilson-Chalmers.

Michelle has been working in the Strategic Research Portfolio for nearly ten years. Her role means that she is involved in a variety of tasks such as co-constructing, awarding, and reviewing projects and website content creation, amongst others. She needs to have a broad overview of the vast array of the work going on across the Portfolio in order to be able to help stakeholders find what they need and/or the right expert to help them. This crucial role can often go unseen but needs to be valued.

A particular project Michelle has enjoyed is helping to create the SEFARI Film with Circa Media, in which she tried to capture everything that SEFARI is in just a 5-minute video!

In addition to her role at Gateway, Michelle is a teaching fellow at the University of Edinburgh where she teaches on the MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement – helping the next generation to develop skills they'll definitely need!

When asked about her thoughts on opportunities for women in STEM, Michelle said; “While I fully support all initiatives to recognise the valuable contributions women have, do and will continue to make in science. Ironically I suppose, I'd like us to get to the point where a dedicated day/event isn't needed any more and we're simply equally valued.”

“My favourite part about my job is connecting people, ideas and opportunities and highlighting the benefits of collaboration” - Michelle

The inspiring and sector-leading work coming out of Gateway would not be possible without our amazing knowledge brokers. Below we learn more about the amazing work being done by Professor Lorna Dawson from The James Hutton Institute and Michelle McWilliams from The Rowett institute.

Professor Lorna Dawson is our Knowledge Broker for the Environment working across research themes and knowledge exchange systems to support Gateway’s impact agenda. Prior to working at Gateway, she was Programme Advisor for the Strategic Research Programme and worked across the Programme to integrate the research e.g., between soil science, microbiology and human health.  Outside of Gateway she is an eminent forensic soil scientist who works in both civil and criminal jurisdictions.

Lorna says that in her role no two days are ever the same, ‘I am constantly dealing with change’. It's also a role that involves a lot of interaction with other people, debates, and chairing meetings. All very exciting, delivering outcomes and promises for a safer and secure world.

Her favourite project that she’s worked on is the virtual farm tour. This was a collaborative project between institutes and partners, which aimed to bring farm visits to schools and the farming community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lorna states that the most important part of her role is listening to others and encouraging the next generation of soil scientists, through projects such as Become a Bug Hotel Builder, Water Words and creating Soil and Crofting resources.

“When I started out, soil was a grey dirty word. Yet now it's vital importance to fresh air, clean water, rich biodiversity and safe food is at last being realised. It's the Cinderella science and now it's gone to the ball. A great time to be involved in earth science and the environment” - Lorna

Michelle McWilliams is Gateway’s knowledge broker for Food and Drink. In her role Michelle helps to build the links between scientific research concerning food and drink with the potential users of that research, such as people within the food and drink industry and policy makers. Michelle is also the Head of Knowledge Exchange & Communications at the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen, which is one of Europe’s leading research bodies in nutritional health science.

Much of Michelle’s work involves communicating science and as such a lot of the time she spends is on crafting the story around the science and tailoring it to the audience.  More often than not, the audience are policy makers (Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament) or industry partners, and that’s what makes the work really interesting.  It’s the best of all worlds; science, industry and policy. 

One of the upcoming projects that Michelle is most excited about is a summit that aims to shape the science for Scotland’s food future. The summit will showcase our current food research to policy makers and MSPs.

“The most important part of my role is communicating science and persuading people of its value, and how it can greatly impact our society" - Michelle

A common misconception is that inspiring scientific work needs to come out of a lab, however, as we’ve already seen many people are working in other areas and behind the scenes to support the research. Our roles are to help researchers to share their work and ensure that the science can reach a wide range of people, and there are even more fantastic women supporting the work of Gateway….

Dr Chrizelle Krynauw joined Gateway very recently and has moved to Scotland from South Africa.

Chrizelle is a bacterial systematist, who compares characterising bacteria and finding where they belong in the taxonomical system to a puzzle. She is involved in studying rhizobia, which are soil bacteria that are capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen in plants such as peas and beans. These bacteria help plants to grow without the need of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.

At Gateway however, she is in charge of updating the SEFARI Research web pages on the current Strategic Research Programme focused projects, which allows researchers to share their progress. When asked what she thinks the most important part of her job is, she replied;

“Providing support to younger researchers by means of mentoring is very important to me; I feel that these relationships are important to keep you motivated during ‘trying times’ – e.g., difficulties in obtaining results (as you do when working with living organisms that do not always ‘behave’ as expected) or trying to source funding for scientific research” Chrizelle

Finally, we hear from Tiyan Osahon who joined Gateway last November and is the Finance Officer for all James Hutton led Centres of Expertise (SEFARI Gateway, CREW and the Plant Health Centre).

In her role, Tiyan oversees the financial management of the centres by collating and analysing our financial data, amongst other things. She also liaises with contract managers and project stakeholders on contractual agreements. Tiyan plays a pivotal role in providing reports to our funders about the work we do, so that we get paid for the work and get reimbursed for payments we make to project partners.

When asked about if she thinks that the opportunities for women to get involved in all areas of STEM she said;

“Yes, I see a positive trend in the involvement of women in science. Many years ago, science professions use to be a remit that is dominated by men. Now the story has changed, I see women within Hutton and SEFARI Gateway who have taken charged and are dominating and excelling in science. Organisations are now making policy adjustments to encourage women’s involvement in science” - Tiyan

This blog is just a snapshot of the amazing work being done by women at Gateway and how they are all contributing even beyond! However, the list is by no means exhaustive, there’s plenty of more inspiring work being done involving other women across SEFARI, and a few examples include:

We’re really proud of all our amazing female colleagues and very appreciative of all the work they do. In society, we’ve come a long way over the past couple of centuries in trying to ensure that women have the same opportunities and recognition for their work. By working together we can make the world a more equal, sustainable and a respectful place.

By David Mercieca, who is currently on work placement with SEFARI Gateway and is pursuing his MSc in Science Communication and Public Engagement MSc at University of Edinburgh.