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Athena SWAN

September 2021: School of Biochemistry and Immunology awarded Athena SWAN Bronze Award

What is Athena SWAN?

Athena SWAN (AS) is a charter to promote fairness in the University sector in terms of gender equality.  More information is available below but in brief, AS provides a structure to help Universities address gender bias and to create a positive environment for all.  AS issues will soon be dealt with under the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives.

How does it work?

There are 3 categories that can be applied for. 

Bronze: Identify problems based on quantitative and qualitative analysis.  Identify and implement solutions.  Embed AS into School of Biochemistry and Immunology (SOBI) activities.

Silver: Demonstrate good practices and the impact of changes implemented using evidence and measurable effects.  Future planning.

Gold:  Serves as a role model in the discipline, College and beyond.

Building upon the College’s Bronze Award, all Schools are now asked to submit applications to AS for School awards. The College is required to have a Silver Award by the end of 2023 in order for staff to apply for funding from Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council and the Health Research Board. The majority of the College’s 24 Schools must have a Bronze award in order for the College to apply for Silver.

What are we doing right now?

B&I has recently been awarded a Bronze star.  As part of this, we have identified ways in which we can improve gender equality in the School.  Further information will be available on the website.  If you have any queries on the process or would like to become more actively involved please contact Nóirín Nic a’ Bháird ( and Clair Gardiner (

What can you do?

Participate when asked.  Fairness is an issue for all.  Let’s work together on this.

Why bother?

Apart from the fact that it is a socially responsible thing to do, there is a well-recognised and documented problem in terms of female recruitment and retention in academic posts.  Given that most of our undergraduate students in SOBI are female, we have an obligation to identify potential barriers they might encounter on the road to an academic/research career in the SOBI.  We also want to create a more fair environment for those further along their respective career track in SOBI.  Finally, many grant authorities are now making a bronze star mandatory for a Department, for a PI to submit a grant application for funding.

Who is undertaking this?

This is a School effort and ultimate responsibility rests with the Head of School.  There is a self-assessment team (SAT) with representation from key groups.  The SAT is chaired by Prof. Clair Gardiner. The full SAT membership is given below:

Athena SWAN SAT:

Chair: Clair Gardiner
Core committee: Nóirín Nic a’ Bháird
Head of School: Andrew Bowie
Academic staff: Danny Zisterer, Ed Lavelle, Emma Creagh, Vincent Kelly
PSS staff: Nóirín Nic a’ Bháird
Postdoctoral researchers: Andreea Petasca
PhD candidates: Ross Ward, Caitlín Ní Chasaide

When will this be finished?

Achieving a bronze star is just the beginning and represents recognitions of increased work required in this area.  The SOBI realises the importance of embedding the principles of AS and EDI into our activities on an ongoing basis.  We look forward to working with you on this into the future.