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Fact: Girls are as good as boys at science

Three in four of those students who took physics for this year's Leaving Certificate examination were boys, while the percentage of girls who opted for biology was twice as high.

Addressing the gender imbalance and changing societal attitudes to specific scientific areas of study are key goals for Ireland's first Chair of STEM Education.

"Conventionally, science has been seen as a male-dominated discipline. This is not just the case in Ireland - it's actually a global phenomenon," says Professor Erduran.

She adds: "We need to look beyond these arbitrary distinctions. Physicists like Marie Curie show us girls can perform in different branches of science just as well as boys.

"Societal perceptions guide girls in following particular roles so we need to inform and try to help shape social expectations."

For inspiration, Irish girls could well look to Limerick's Margaret Murnane, who studied physics in UCC and is now chair of the President's Committee on the National Medal of Science in the USA

And astrophysicist Julie McEnery, a UCD graduate, and head of FERMI Spacecraft at NASA.

Irish Independent