Kettering's Sarah immortalised with new Barbie doll

She hopes it will inspire young girls to work in science

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 10:38 am
Updated Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 10:48 am
Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert: Barbie creates doll in honour of Oxford vaccine co-creator

When Kettering' s Sarah Gilbert began work on a Covid-19 vaccine, one of the last things she thought she would be doing 18 months later was holding a Barbie doll of herself.

But that's exactly what has happened - after toy company Mattel created a doll in her honour after her incredible work to design the life-saving jab.

The Oxford professor, who grew up in the town and was made a Dame in the Queen's birthday honours, led the development of the AstraZeneca jab which has saved thousands of lives around the world.

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The 59-year-old said she initially found the Barbie gesture "very strange" but hoped it would inspire young girls to work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem).

She said: "I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into Stem careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realise how vital careers in science are to help the world around us.

"My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist."

As well as the likeness of Dame Sarah, the toy company has created models in honour of five other women working in Stem around the world.

They include US healthcare workers Amy O'Sullivan and Dr Audrey Cruz, Canadian doctor and campaigner Dr Chika Stacy Oriuwa, Brazilian biomedical researcher Dr Jaqueline Goes de Jesus and Dr Kirby White, an Australian medic who co-created a reusable gown for frontline staff.

Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global head of Barbie and dolls at Mattel, said: "Barbie recognises that all frontline workers have made tremendous sacrifices when confronting the pandemic and the challenges it heightened.

"To shine a light on their efforts, we are sharing their stories and leveraging Barbie's platform to inspire the next generation to take after these heroes and give back.

"Our hope is to nurture and ignite the imaginations of children playing out their own storyline as heroes."

Dame Sarah, a mum to triplets, attended Kettering's Park Road Junior School before passing her 11+ to gain a place at the selective Kettering High School for Girls in Lewis Road in 1973, where she passed nine O-Levels and played the oboe in the school's orchestra.

She was described by former classmates as quiet but hard-working and was part of a musical family, with her mum Hazel involved with the town's operatic society. Hazel worked at Sunnylands Kindergarten, with Prof Gilbert's dad Clifford an office manager at Loake.

Dame Sarah, who grew up in Mitchell Street, later went to university in Norwich - becoming the first person in her family to do so - before going on to have a huge impact in the field of vaccinology.

Since her rise to fame in the past year she has also won the prestigious Albert Medal, putting her name alongside people such as Stephen Hawking and Marie Curie.

Her work was also marked with a stone in Kettering's historical timeline in the Market Place.

Her brother Tom, who works at Rushton Hall, previously told the Northants Telegraph: "I know that she is an Oxford professor, but to me she will always be a Kettering girl."