wormwagonFaculty scientists Dr Sheena Cruickshank and Professor Kathryn Else, alongside Dr Joanne Pennock of The Faculty for Medical and Human Sciences, have received the International Women’s Day 2013 Award for Woman in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The award is presented to women who have excelled in the STEM fields, and those having a positive impact on women or the wider community. The fact that the team have been chosen as this year’s recipients demonstrates just how successful they have been in their joint venture: The Worm Wagon.

The award-winning trio’s research focuses on Neglected Tropical Diseases, specifically soil transmitted parasitic worm infections. These illnesses have a huge impact on global health and often trap communities in poverty due to ill health and reduced schooling. A key 2020 goal for the World Health Organisation is to provide deworming medication to 75% of school-age children in endemic regions.

The Worm Wagon showcases this research and is enthusiastically supported by other members of the Manchester Immunology Group. Activities revolve around videos of hatching worm eggs, field work in Ecuador, and messy mucus demonstrations. These activities have been enjoyed by over 45,000 people at schools, festivals, and museums. The scientists have also worked with community organisations and women and children from Asian communities, raising awareness of parasitic worm infections.

At the 2010 Manchester Science Festival, the Worm Wagon created two pieces of traditional Indian art (Rangoli) to highlight the role that science can play in reducing world poverty. The artwork raised awareness of on-going research and highlighted the global drive to reduce worm infection in school children. The events were a great success, prompting interesting discussion and contributing to the scientific direction in Manchester.

The Worm Wagon team are all committed to encouraging and promoting women in science. Professor Else and Dr Pennock work on improving Athena Swan status for their Faculties, while Professor Else also founded the Women in Life Sciences group at the University. Receiving this latest award is a deserved achievement, recognising the successful and dynamic work done to improve the situation for female scientists at the same time as combatting serious illness.

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