Women of Sheffield awards: Time to honour Sheffield’s female scientists 

Helen Sharman CMG OBE
Helen Sharman CMG OBE

The search is on for remarkable female scientists ahead of a brand new awards night.

The Star’s Women of Sheffield awards has been launched to shout about our many unsung heroines and help inspire women who are following in their footsteps. 

The Helen Sharman Award for Science will celebrate the female scientists of Sheffield.

Dr Sharman became the first British astronaut when she launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and spent eight days orbiting the Earth in May 1991.

She was selected from 13,000 applicants but didn’t think she would be chosen when she applied, after hearing an advert on the radio on her way home after work.

The advert was searching for a calm, practical, friendly and professional team player – and Helen, who grew up in Grenoside, proved to be the right woman for the job.

The radio promotion was for Project Juno, a USSR-backed programme to send a Briton into space. Helen had completed a PhD at Birkbeck University in London and was a research chemist for, appropriately, the confectioner Mars before she triumphed over 13,000 applicants.

Lengthy preparations were necessary - two candidates were picked to train at Star City, Moscow, and Helen was chosen after 18 months at the camp.

Speaking to The Star in 2017, she said: “It was such an intense time. The big thing is feeling weightless - it was so amazing, the most natural, relaxing feeling you can imagine. A bit like riding a bike, you can always remember what it’s like.

"I don’t tend to remember my dreams very often, when I go sleep, I zonk - I’m gone. But on the odd occasion I do sometimes have a dream where I’m floating along the space station and stop by a window and look out.

"The views were absolutely fabulous."

She has worked since 2015 as the operations manager of Imperial College London’s chemistry department.

Asked by The Star in 2017 for her thoughts on further voyages by astronauts, she said: “Going into space is the right thing to do, but not the only thing. Of course we need hospitals, research and education.” 

Last year she was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle – an honour bestowed for her services to science and technology educational outreach. She previously received the OBE in 1992.

Here at The Star, we want to find other calm, practical, friendly and professional team players who persevere in the world of science. 

We’re looking for Sheffield people to nominate female science lovers of all ages, whether it’s a school genius or a retired revolutionary scientist. 

The Women of Sheffield awards will take place at Glide in Attercliffe on March 7, the day before International Women’s Day. 

It is timed to link in with a special edition of The Star that will be published on March 8 and delivered into Sheffield schools to show young girls what they can achieve and aspire towards. 

To nominate somebody for Women of Sheffield, please send her name, category nominated for and why she deserves to win, to ann.holmes@jpimedia.co.uk.

Alternatively, you can post entries to Ann Holmes, Sheffield Newspapers, The Balance, Pinfold Street, Sheffield, S1 2GU

Don’t be afraid to nominate yourself either, as we want to shout about all strong Steel City women. 

The deadline for nominations is Monday, February 4.