SFI scholarship woos women to engineering

26 Sep 2005

In a bid to boost the numbers of young women studying engineering in this country, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has launched a scholarship in association with the computer maker Dell.

Under the scheme, Up to 10 scholarships will be awarded in 2006, the inaugural year of this scheme. Each award is worth approximately €20,000 overall. It comprises four parts: recipients will receive an annual award of €2,000, a Dell Precision M20 notebook computer at the start of their degree, assistance and support of a research active mentor throughout their undergraduate career as well as encouragement to spend summers in a research internship in university or industry.

Launching the Young Women in Engineering Scholarship, Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, noted the serious gender imbalance among students taking university engineering courses. “This is not simply a matter of equality, but one of ensuring that there are sufficient numbers of researchers in science, engineering and technology to support a knowledge-based economy,” he said.

Michael Dell, CEO of Dell, added: “Similar to many countries, Ireland needs more students to pursue careers in engineering. Changing demographics and globalisation require that we tap all key talent pools.”

The scholarship is part of a broader SFI plan to increase the number of science and engineer researchers in Ireland. Designated engineering courses have been highlighted for this campaign because they are among those where women have been historically under-represented. According to statistics from the Central Applications Office (CAO), 16.4pc of students who accepted places on four-year engineering degree courses in 2002-2004 were female.

SFI board member Dr Jane Grimson said there was a clear and unequivocal case for increasing the participation of women in science, engineering and technology in Ireland. The current situation where women are under-represented threatens the country’s competitiveness and needs a co-ordinated set of focused research driven programmes, she added.

Applicants for the scholarship must have completed the Leaving Certificate either in the year they are applying to third-level education (2006) or in the previous year (2005). They must achieve an A1 or A2 grade in mathematics or applied mathematics, and an A1 or A2 in either physics, biology or chemistry at higher level in the Leaving Certificate and secure a CAO offer for an eligible course in the first round of CAO offers in 2006.

By Gordon Smith