“From Italy with Love”: Life as a Scientist

In honor of International Women's Day, unique exhibition honoring women in science inaugurated at the Technion, in the presence of Italian Embassy representatives

In honor of International Women’s Day, the photography exhibition titled “Life as a Scientist” has opened on Thursday, March 9th, at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Created by photographer Gerald Bruneau, the installment includes 40 portraits of inspiring Italian women scientists.

Visitors at the "Life as a Scientist" exhibition

Visitors at the “Life as a Scientist” exhibition

The exhibition was created from the “100 Women Against Stereotypes” database project, which was established with the support of the European Union delegation in Italy, out of a desire to overcome biases and prejudices often associated with the work of women in the fields of science and engineering.

It was opened by Deputy Head Of Mission at the Embassy of Italy to Israel Ms. Sarah Eti Castellani, Technion President Professor Uri Sivan, Technion Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Professor Adi Salzberg, CEO of Bracco Imaging Dr. Fulvio Renoldi Bracco, and Bracco Group President Dr. Diana Bracco, who was unable to come and sent a recorded video greeting instead.

“Women scientists are under-represented in many scientific institutions, mainly in STEM fields,” Prof. Adi Salzberg said at the inauguration. “I believe that increasing the visibility of women in the public space on campus is therefore very meaningful, especially for our students.”

Prof. Uri Sivan speaking at the exhibition opening

Prof. Uri Sivan speaking at the exhibition opening

Prof. Uri Sivan made mention of the way the Technion has changed over the past hundred years. “The Technion’s first cohort of students consisted of only one woman and 16 men. We’ve been working to increase the number of women among students and faculty. This year, 48% of our freshmen are women, a record number among technological universities, I believe.”

Ms. Sarah Eti Castellani, speaking on behalf of Ambassador of Italy to Israel, Mr. Sergio Barbanti, quoted Jewish-Italian Nobel laureate Prof. Rita Levi-Montalcini. “Don’t think of yourself – think of others, and what you can do for them. Don’t be afraid of obstacles, but find ways to overcome them.” The women in the photographs, like many other women scientists, continue the path of Rita Levi-Montalcini.

Prof. Rita Levi-Montalcini with Prof. Adi Salzberg, when the former visited the Technion in 2008

Prof. Rita Levi-Montalcini with Prof. Adi Salzberg, when the former visited the Technion in 2008

Professor Shulamit Levenberg from the Technion’s Faculty of Biomedical Engineering, who is creating tissue for transplantation through bioprinting, spoke about her research.

Dr. Fulvio Renoldi Bracco, CEO of Bracco Imaging, said “Women make a big contribution to science, but their contribution is rarely recognized. This exhibition seeks to change that. We need the women scientists. With the challenges humanity faces, no talent should be overlooked and wasted.”

Dr. Diana Bracco’s message was “With this exhibition, the Bracco Foundation pays tribute to Italian women engaged in science at very high levels. Through these images, the foundation portrays their ingenuity, enthusiasm and commitment and hopes to overcome the prejudice and discrimination often associated with the work of women in science.”

The foundation noted that despite the many experienced and professional women who make up a considerable part of the planet and who can provide a new media language for science, it is almost always men who explain and interpret the world.

The initial project morphed into a book where female scientists talked about themselves and their private and professional lives, extensively or through short snappy tweets. Over time, this platform has grown, particularly by its expansion to include female economists and financial experts, which are areas where women are very underrepresented.

The exhibition at the Erna Finci Viterbi Lawn

The exhibition at the Erna Finci Viterbi Lawn

The exhibition not only provides a venue for the voices of these strong women, but it also lets the viewer associate a face to a name. Gerald Bruneau’s photos allow these women to “step out in the open” and reveal their dedication and determination in pursuit of their endeavors.

The exhibition was conceived by the Italian Bracco Foundation and brought to the Technion in a joint effort by the Italian Embassy to Israel, the Technion, and the Italian Technion Society.

The exhibition was translated into Hebrew, Arabic, and English. It was placed in the Erna Finci Viterbi Lawn, between the Central Library, the Students’ House and the Senate administrative building, where it would be visible to students, faculty and staff, and where it will remain until the end of June 2023. The consultant for the placement of the exhibition at the Technion was curator Valeria Geselev and the designers were Hagar Messer and Ofri Fortis. The printing and installation were done by Lederman Ltd. “Public spaces can shape cultural perceptions,” Ms. Geselev said. “This exhibition is a beautiful gift that helps us consider how women can be made more present in the public space, in particular in the context of science, technology and research.”