Citizens, Science and Coffee

The general public gathered for speed meetings with female scientists
Citizens, Science and Coffee
Female scientists at Trieste's Antico Caffè San Marco. 
Charlotte Phillips

Trieste’s research community boasts a broad range of institutes working in almost every aspect of modern science, from genomics to astrophysics. In celebration of the 2024 International Day of Women and Girls in Science, ICTP gathered local female scientists at Trieste’s Antico Caffè San Marco to talk to members of the public in a speed-dating-without-the-dating format. Attendees were invited to spend a few minutes talking with scientists at tables spaced across the cafe, thus gaining a snapshot of the life and work of each researcher.

Physicists from several fields were joined by a microbiologist, neuroscientist, oceanographer, geneticist, geophysicist, geologist, and dentistry researcher. The event kicked off with introductions from Sandro Scandolo, Senior Research Scientist and Senior Coordinator of Research and Partnerships at ICTP, who underlined the current gender inequality in science, particularly in more senior positions, and Erica Coppola, Research Scientist with ICTP's Earth System Physics section, who described the event as a celebration of the women working in STEM subjects. Participants shared their thoughts with us on the event.


Several budding scientists came to the event with their parents or teachers. “We came tonight because we very much like science, and also Caffè San Marco, so we came to this event to talk about science in a nice place. My kid really likes science, and I thought this would be inspirational for her.”

“Our science teacher told us about the event, and science is a material I like very much. Right now, I’m more interested in astrophysics.”

“I’m at high school and personally interested in doing my career in stem, and I’m really happy to see other women who pursue the same kind of career. It’s very inspirational for me and gives me hope that one day I’ll mange to succeed in the same career.”

“I’m also very interested in STEM, I want to study astrophysics in the future, and I’m really interested to see other women in similar fields. I thought it was really cool to talk about the topics that they’re passionate about. They’re doing something that I want to do in the future, so this is very inspirational.”

Students from the various science institutes in Trieste came to meet more advanced researchers in their fields. “I’m almost done with my bachelor's degree in psychology, and I want to see what the newest scientists have to say, such as neuroscientists. Before this, I didn't know the precise number [of women in physics]. I knew that generally, there are less women in science.”

“I’m doing my PhD at ICTP, and I came when I heard about this as I was curious to meet other scientists here.”


Many researchers came to connect with other female scientists, and highlighted their experiences in their careers. “I’m a researcher at the Elettra synchrotron. I was curious to see what kind of event this would be and to see different kinds of women researchers, from different fields, and what they are achieving in this wonderful world.”

“It's very nice to see all the women in science here in one place, because if we look just at individual sections you find that the representation of woman is much lower. When I see all these women in science together, I feel so proud; I find this so exciting.”

“I’m on my first post-doc after my PhD, and actually, I'm curious to know what kind of work other female scientists are doing here, and how they are achieving these goals. It's a great opportunity to learn and understand. I'm currently working in materials science, in mass spectroscopy, with ICTP, but at the Elettra synchrotron.”


“I’ve worked in science for the last 10 years, and every time I make some steps in my career I feel the gender inequality. As I get higher in my research career, I feel that it is more difficult as a woman, that it is more important for us to have opportunities, and how invisible we are. I see how men are occupying places above women. For example, every time you go up the ladder, you see more men than women taking scientific responsibilities, and I think this is a symptom of something that is happening to us. I came here in this context, to support these activities, but I would like us to organise ourselves better as a community, so that we do not depend on institutions but on the women of the scientific community here in Trieste.”

“I came here for exchange. I’m a scientist, and it’s so important to have this type of exchange from people of different backgrounds.”


Several members of the general public joined in the event. “We came to see what people are doing, to actually talk about woman, not people in general. So it's nice to see many women researchers like this, it gives a good impression that people are interested in this.”

“I found the idea of this event very interesting; a coffee with scientists. We don’t have this type of thing in my country, Oman, and I find this really interesting, where you can talk to a scientist and share life experiences.”

People working in support organisations for STEM girls and women were positive about the event. “I came here out of curiosity, and because I belong to an association, Trieste Soroptimist Club, founded for professional women. For years, we have financed female students in STEM who might have some financial difficulties. To support female creativity, we also award the Lady Maker Prize to one or two female scientists at the Trieste Maker’s fair who created something that we consider to be noteworthy.”


“I’m a scientist, even if I’m retired, in mathematics. I’m also part of Trieste Soroptimist Club, which supports equality, and I came to meet young scientists. The event is great because you can learn a lot here, meet interesting people, and appreciate living in a town like Trieste.”

“I’m here to observe this incredible opportunity where students are able to connect with persons they admire, who they want to be; so they can learn directly from them the sorts of career they want to pursue. This is very close to my heart because woman are really underrepresented in STEM fields, and these types of opportunities will open doors for future STEM-aspiring girls. I feel that it’s incredible what ICTP’s doing, and I’m here to be a part of this.”

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