Introducing the Equity in Parasitology (EQUIP) Scholarship
The EQUIP Scholarship is a new strategic award designed to support women scientists from low and middle-income countries (LMICs) to attend international parasitology conferences. The selected conference for the inaugural year is the 29th International Conference for the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP) which was held in Chennai, India from 20-24th August 2023.
Persistent gender disparity continues to exclude women and girls in STEM from achieving their full potential and effectively contributing to global challenges. The number of women in STEM in most LMICs is less than 25% due to barriers such as lack of funding, discrimination, cultural biases and parenting responsibilities. To promote and support women scientists from LMICs in STEM, the EQUIP Scholarship aims to encourage their participation in international conferences.
Historically, men have dominated parasitology-specific awards, making up 70% of all past award winners and 58% of the early-mid career stage award recipients. The EQUIP Scholarship aims to shift this imbalance and hopes to increase the visibility and representation of women in the field. This will not only benefit the individuals receiving the scholarships but also the field as a whole by bringing new perspectives and ideas to the table.
The 2023 scholarships were generously supported by the WAAVP, the WAAVP African Network, and Elsevier.
Scholarship details: 2023 round
Four scholarships were awarded to women parasitologists from LMICs out of 18 eligible applications. Two scholarships were dedicated to women from Africa. Eligible applicants were asked to submit a summary (maximum one page, size 12 font) of their academic achievements to date, including information about any contributions they have made to gender equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). The scholarships will continue to be open to women at all career stages, but their achievements are considered ‘relative to opportunity’ to not disadvantage early and middle career stage researchers.
Congratulations to the 2023 winners!
Herminthology founder and WAAVP EDI sub-committee co-chair Dr. Nichola Calvani was delighted to introduce the four winners at the WAAVP conference in Chennai, India. Click below to read all about them and their work.
Meet the EQUIP Scholarship Panel of Assessors
Diversity, equity, inclusion (EDI), and allyship are important to us. As a result, we have ensured that the EQUIP Scholarship assessors are geographically diverse and gender balanced. Learn more about them and why they value EDI below:
Dr. Esther Kanduma is a Senior Lecturer and Research Scientist at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Nairobi, Kenya. Her research interests are in animal parasitology focusing on parasite/vector genetic diversity, population structure, vaccine development and molecular epidemiology/diagnostics of ticks & tick-borne diseases of Veterinary and Public Health importance. Esther is passionate about promotion of STEM and empowerment of women in science. She is co-chair of the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP) Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) sub-committee and the country coordinator of the International Veterinary Vaccinology Network’s (IVVN) African Schools Science Outreach Program in Kenya. As part of this program, she is actively involved in mentorship of high school students to build capacity and strengthen scientific skills, influence attitudes, and change negative perceptions of girls towards science courses and careers. She is also Vice-Chair of the Kenyan Chapter of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (KeAWARD) where she coordinates gender-responsive farmer capacity building and empowerment activities. “In Africa, women remain substantially under-represented in science careers. Persistent gender disparity continues to exclude women in STEM from achieving their full potential. We all have a role to play to advance and sustain efforts to eliminate all obstacles that hinder progression of women in STEM careers. The innovative EQUIP Scholarship is strategically designed to inspire and give women scientists from LMICs an opportunity to showcase their work, network and learn, thereby propelling them into scientific leadership. I am very grateful to all those who have generously supported this initiative and urge all the motivated women parasitologists to go for it.”
Dr. Nichola Calvani is a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. John Dalton’s laboratory at the University of Galway, Ireland, where she works on understanding and harnessing the biology of the common liver fluke, Fasciola hepatica to assist in the development of vaccines, diagnostics and biotherapeutics. Nichola completed an undergraduate degree in Animal and Veterinary Biosciences at the University of Sydney, Australia, which she immediately followed with a PhD on the molecular diagnosis and characterisation of F. hepatica, Fasciola gigantica and their hybrids in Southeast Asia. She has extensive experience in traditional and molecular identification and characterisation of a range of parasites of veterinary importance. Nichola, who founded Herminthology in 2021, is a passionate advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). Alongside her colleague Dr. Esther Kanduma, Nichola is currently co-chair of the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP) EDI sub-committee. “As a woman, I have always been aware of the challenges women face to be treated equally and with respect in both society and the workplace. Unfortunately, even in 2023 significant barriers remain preventing the involvement, recognition and celebration of women in STEM fields. This is especially true for our colleagues from minority backgrounds and thus I believe it is our shared responsibility to do all we can to overcome these challenges and collectively make science a more inclusive discipline for everyone regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or socioeconomic background. It is my hope that the EQUIP Scholarships will help to remove some of the limitations preventing the participation of women in parasitology.”
Dr David Smith is a Moredun Fellow at the Moredun Research Institute, where he is creating his first research group. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Zoology from Liverpool John Moores University, which sparked his interest in parasitology. He earned his MPhil from Newcastle University before completing his PhD at Queen's University Belfast, where he worked under the supervision of Prof John Dalton. Following his PhD, he joined the University of Michigan as a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Vernon Carruthers Lab, where he worked on various basic and applied research projects focused on the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. His current research interests include understanding how parasites invade their host and persist long-term and his lab’s research bridges both basic and applied science. David is particularly interested in developing in vitro stem cell-derived organoid systems representative of different livestock tissues to investigate specific questions in host:pathogen biology. “I come from a relatively poor area of one of the most economically deprived regions of England. I went to a large high school, and I am one of very few who were able to 1) embark on an academic and/or STEM career path and 2) sustain it. The vast majority do not get that opportunity. And that’s a problem. I firmly believe anyone should be able to achieve the career they want, regardless of their background. I see it as a social obligation and responsibility to use my platform to help promote, support, mentor and champion individuals from underrepresented groups into a career in research, including (but not limited to) those from a low-income background, women, non cis-hetero, disabled and/or ethnic minority backgrounds. Science should be a place for equity, and we achieve more progress when we can all come together.”
Prof. Alicia Rojas is a microbiologist and parasitologist who graduated from the University of Costa Rica. She has a PhD in Animal Sciences from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and conducted post-doctoral research at the Weizmann Institute of Sciences in Israel. Her lab at the University of Costa Rica researches the epidemiology, phylogeography and host-pathogen interactions of helminths of veterinary and human importance from a One Health perspective. She has published more than 40 peer-reviewed articles and is associate editor of the journals Parasites & Vectors, Acta Tropica and Current Research in Parasitology and Vector-Borne Diseases. In 2020 Alicia was awarded the Odile Bain Prize for Young Parasitologists, and in 2022 received an honorary mention by the Young Women Scientists of the Interamerican Network for Academies in Sciences. In 2021 she was elected as the founding coordinator of AcosNET: International Network for the Research of Angiostrongylus costaricensis. “I am an active collaborator in community welfare programs to diagnose, treat and prevent parasitic infections in children of vulnerable populations of Costa Rica. Due to the many limitations I see first-hand while on field work, I believe profoundly in the inclusion of all individuals no matter their socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religious beliefs. With EQUIP scholarships we hope women from different backgrounds can overcome some of the limitations encountered when carrying out their research. With these scholarships they will have the opportunity to interact in the WAAVP, an event full of experts in the field who will engage them in future connections and collaborations.”
Dr. John Gilleard is a Professor of Parasitology at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Canada. His research group integrates parasitology, genetics and genomics to study anti-parasitic drug resistance, predominantly in parasitic nematodes of livestock, companion animals and humans. His research team seeks to improve parasite diagnostics, better manage and mitigate drug resistance and develop more sustainable approaches to parasite control. He has held the position of Associate Dean Research in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary (2012-2017 and 2022-current) and was President of the American Association of Veterinary Parasitology in 2018. John is also a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) and Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). “I am extremely honoured and delighted to be a member of the panel of assessors for the EQUIP scholarship program. Together with other initiatives, such as Herminthology, this program is an extremely important, and long overdue, contribution to help address the many disproportionate challenges faced by women in the academic sector with a focus on the parasitology discipline. The EQUIP scholarship program is particularly welcome as the challenges for women from low- and middle-income countries are especially acute, and improving accessibility to international conferences for our colleagues from such countries is an extremely important goal. I firmly believe all of us in the parasitology community need to do much more to improve Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity in our discipline over the years to come.”
Dr. Patrick Vudriko is a lecturer, research scientist and the founder/manager of the Research Center for Tropical Diseases & Vector Control (RTC) Laboratory at Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources & Biosecurity (COVAB), Uganda. He Holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Veterinary Medicine, a Masters of Science in Pharmacology, a PhD in Veterinary Science and a Diploma in International Animal Health Research. At the international level, Patrick is a member of the Word Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) Electronic expert group on antiprasiticide, an FAO Expert on Tick acaricide Resistance management, a member of the Word Veterinary Association (WVA) Strategic Focus group on Pharmaceutical Stewardship and co-chair of Word Association for Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology African Network (WAAVP-AN). Patrick has over 16 years of research and community intervention experience on parasite and antimicrobial resistance, veterinary medicinal product regulatory affairs and developing strategies for optimizing interventions towards solving complex animal health challenges in African context. “As a leader of the RTC Lab, I have maintained an open-door policy on admission and providing an enabling environment for female scientists to excel in their career aspirations. I also ensure that female team members are given equal leadership opportunities to their male counterparts in the lab. I continue to advocate for fairness and equity in ensuring women not only participate in the STEM ecosystem, but as become leaders in their respective fields. I believe that the EQUIP Scholarships add a critical ingredient in sustaining equity in science and promoting women in STEM fields for a better world.”