Day of Women and Girls in Science: 5 Indian women scientists breaking barriers

Day of Women and Girls in Science: 5 Indian women scientists breaking barriers

India has a rich history of women scientists who have made significant contributions to the field of science. However, despite the progress made in recent years, women in science still face numerous challenges and barriers in India.

According to a report by the National Science Foundation, women make up only 14% of the total workforce in STEM fields in India.

Furthermore, a study conducted by UNESCO found that only 35% of STEM students in higher education in India are women.

Despite these challenges, there are many inspiring women and girls in science who have overcome obstacles and achieved remarkable success in STEM fields.


The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated on February 11 annually by the United Nations, promotes equal access to STEM fields.

This year marks the ninth assembly, focusing on ‘Women and Girls in Science Leadership, a New Era for Sustainability.’

Recognising women as agents of change, the theme aligns with SDGs 16 and 17, emphasising ‘Think Science … Think Peace.’

Established in 2011, the day aims to enhance women’s participation in education and technology. The 9th assembly will convene global leaders to discuss women’s roles in achieving economic prosperity, social justice, and environmental integrity.Top of Form

Here are five extraordinary women scientists who have made India proud with their innovative research and groundbreaking discoveries:



Gagandeep Kang, a renowned Indian microbiologist, made history in 2019 as the first Indian woman elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Her groundbreaking research focuses on viral infections in children, particularly on testing rotaviral vaccines.

Kang chairs the WHO SEAR’s Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group and has authored over 300 scientific research papers.

She received the prestigious Infosys Prize in Life Sciences in 2016 and has been honoured with several awards, including fellowships from esteemed institutions like the Royal College of Pathologists and the Indian National Science Academy.


(Photo: Getty Images)

Tessy Thomas, hailed as the “Missile Woman of India,” played a pivotal role in India’s ballistic missile defense programme.

She holds the distinction of being the first woman scientist to lead a missile project in India, contributing significantly to aerospace engineering.

Thomas has garnered numerous awards for her outstanding contributions to the field, earning recognition from institutions like the MIT Technology Review and The Scientist.

Her exceptional leadership and expertise have been instrumental in advancing India’s defense capabilities.



Sunita Sarawagi, a distinguished professor at IIT Bombay, is celebrated for her groundbreaking research in databases and data mining.

Her work focuses on extracting valuable insights from large datasets, revolutionising data management systems.

Sarawagi’s contributions have earned her prestigious accolades, including the Infosys Prize in Engineering and Computer Science in 2019.

Recognised as a leading authority in her field, she has been elected as a fellow of esteemed institutions like the Indian National Academy of Engineering and the Association for Computing Machinery.



Sudha Bhattacharya, a professor at the School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and a fellow of The National Academy of Sciences, India, the Indian Academy of Sciences, and the Indian National Science Academy (2014), has made significant contributions to molecular parasitology.

Her pioneering research on Entamoeba histolytica has led to groundbreaking discoveries in gene regulation and parasite biology.

Bhattacharya’s work has received global acclaim, earning her esteemed fellowships and awards, including recognition from the Indian Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, India.

Her innovative findings have deepened our understanding of parasitic diseases, paving the way for novel therapeutic interventions.


(Photo: India Today)

Indian aerospace engineer Nigar Shaji has been integral to the country’s space exploration since joining ISRO in 1987. Notably, she was the project director of the Aditya-L1, India’s first solar mission.

Her extensive career at ISRO, spanning over 35 years, showcases her multifaceted professional capabilities, including her role as the Associate Project Director of Resourcesat-2A, a pivotal Indian Remote Sensing Satellite dedicated to national resource monitoring and management.

Her academic background includes a Bachelor’s in electronics and communication and a Master’s in Electronics from BIT Ranchi. Shaji’s contributions highlight her vital role in India’s space missions, emphasising her commitment to advancing the nation’s space exploration endeavours.

The impact of women and girls in science in India cannot be overstated. Their dedication, perseverance, and ingenuity have propelled the nation towards scientific excellence and have set a shining example for the world to follow.

As we celebrate their achievements, it is imperative to provide continued support and opportunities for women and girls in science, ensuring that their potential is fully realised for the benefit of society and the advancement of knowledge.

Published On:

Feb 11, 2024

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