Being one of the three women recognised for her research efforts that may potentially save the lives of millions by tackling large-scale global challenges, Dr Teh Su Yean is a huge advocate for unifying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Dr Teh's dedication bagged her a position as L'Oreal-UNESCO's Women In Science 2017. Her first focus and priority is to protect Malaysia's coastal resources. We sit down with the self-proclaimed introvert to discuss the local marine environment, women in STEM, and common misconceptions.
Is the situation improving for women going into STEM fields?
For me, it is improving, at least for Mathematics. I do see a lot more women than men in mathematics in Universiti Sains Malaysia. For example, in my current class on Environmental Modeling, I have 23 female students and only 3 male students. And 30 out of 46 academic staffs in USM’s School of Mathematical Sciences are females.
But I think the perception of having fewer women in Mathematics is because female mathematicians are not acknowledged enough for their work and they are often overlooked for higher administrative or leadership positions. So I am very happy that awards such as this L’Oreal-UNESCO Research Fellowship actually acknowledge and appreciate female mathematicians who have made noteworthy research contributions to society and country.
But in other fields like Engineering, you still see a lack of women’s participation. I believe this has something to do with the male-dominated work environment of an engineer.
My view is that having more women going into STEM is important but an even more important effort is to have them keep practicing in STEM field after graduation.