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We Must Empower Scientists and Encourage Youth

When Dr. Hripsime Mkrtchyan was a child she used to hear from outstanding physicians and scholars that the field of science (and physics in particular) were not a “woman’s world.”

But she didn’t let that stop her.

Now 31, Hripsime, who holds a degree in physics from Yerevan State University and is now a mentor and a postdoc fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also involved in a number of cutting-edge projects aimed at improving Armenia’s environment and enhancing education in the sciences.

She is the founder of Eco Aghb (or Eco Waste), a social enterprise started in 2018 which is aimed at reducing Yerevan’s waste through recycling—something novel for the city. She is also a co-founder of the Alumni of YSU Physics Faculty, an NGO that aims to unite faculty alumni around making positive changes at YSU and in the quality of physics education in general.

Hripsime applied for FAR’s Yervant Terzian Armenian Science and Education Fund (ANSEF) grants three times before being accepted into the program in 2020. Now, with her team’s work financially supported by an ANSEF grant, they continue to explore atmospheric electricity as a way to gauge environmental changes.

According to Hripsime, atmospheric electricity can help diagnoseenvironmental change; there is a direct connection between climate andthunder and lightning activity. The project aims to investigate the atmospheric electric field variations in different regions of Armenia throughout the year, which can ideally and ultimately inform the nation’s response to climate change.

“This was a unique opportunity for me and my personal career growth and self-awareness and my team members are taking their first steps on a big scientific path,” said Hripsime.

ANSEF is invaluable to Armenia’s scientific community, she said.“Unfortunately, the Armenian government doesn’t provide tangible financial support to those in the scientific field. We don’t have mentors either, therefore we must create empowering ecosystems in science to curb brain drain and encourage the youth to choose this field.”


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