The annual national awards programme, which is now in its 11th year, celebrates the most inspirational women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) industries, and recognises their role in inspiring and supporting the next generation. Dr Sartbaeva’s research focuses on making vaccines safe in all temperatures for easier storage and transportation. With her team, she has developed a system for delivering vaccines to children in low-income nations by making them safe to travel at ambient temperatures.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 2-million children under five died every year from vaccine-preventable diseases, some because we were not able to deliver live-saving vaccines to those infants,” said Dr. Asel Sartbaeva.
“Vaccines need refrigeration for storage and transport, and in some countries without infrastructure, electricity or equipment, this is not possible. If people are not vaccinated, it leaves them vulnerable even when humanity has the means to fight these diseases. The method we’re developing – called ensilication – could help make vaccines thermally stable. Using ensilication could make it easier to deliver vaccines even to the most remote locations around the world and reach everyone who needs to be vaccinated.”
On top of her research on vaccine thermal stability, Dr Sartbaeva has been developing resources for primary school pupils and teachers that show girls what a career in science might look like. She also regularly speaks about issues connected to women pursuing a career in science, academia, and the importance of mentoring for girls and young women starting out in their science careers. She regularly gives public seminars, interviews and talks aimed at encouraging girls from underrepresented minority groups into STEM.
During the past few months, Dr Sartbaeva has also been a frequent speaker on national and regional news channels, where she has explained the storage challenges of Covid-19 vaccines.
Dr Sartbaeva is one of six finalists for this year’s FDM Academic award. The winner will be announced on the 4th of March.