Tackling bias in academia

Gisela Riescher (left), Vice-President for Research Integrity, Gender and Diversity, honors Maria Asplund with 2020 Bertha Ottenstein Award. Photo: Jörg Blum

The University of Freiburg honors Maria Asplund with 2020 Bertha Ottenstein Award

The electrical engineer and biomaterials researcher Dr. Maria Asplund from the Institute of Microsystems Technology (IMTEK) receives the 2020 Bertha Ottenstein Award in recognition of special initiatives for the promotion of women and equal opportunities, and for outstanding scientific achievements in gender and diversity research. The prize is endowed with 5,000 euros.

Asplund draws attention to the unequal treatment of men and women in the scientific community and show ways of rethinking the issues. She focusses on unconscious bias in STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In 2018, she organized an anti-bias seminar at the Gordon Conference on Neuroelectronic Interfaces and published the article "Advancing Science: How Bias Holds Us Back" in the journal Neuron. In the article she gives an overview of previous studies and develops strategies to combat the problem. It is important that scientists first recognize how bias works: People distort reality through the views they have developed over the years - and this has negative consequences for research in homogeneous working groups. An important next step is therefore to promote diversity and to conduct research in mixed teams. Asplund plans to continue her commitment to equality in STEM subjects and to invite renowned speakers from all over the world to Freiburg. She plans to use the Bertha Ottenstein Prize money for this purpose.

Maria Asplund develops electrodes and sensors for brain-machine interfaces at the IMTEK and in the Center BrainLinks-BrainTools. She was awarded a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) in 2017 for her research on a special polymer that is can accelerate the healing of wounds.

Link to the official press release of the University of Freiburg.