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Barbie debuts doll honoring Oxford COVID-19 vaccine creator

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Professor Sarah Gilbert played a crucial role in developing one of the world's leading COVID-19 vaccines — and now, her likeness is being immortalized by one of the world's leading toymakers.

Mattel announced Wednesday it created a Barbie doll to honor Gilbert, the project leader for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as a "Barbie Role Model." The doll shares her long, red hair and prominent black glasses, and is sporting a navy pantsuit. 

Gilbert said she thought being made into a Barbie was "very strange," but that she hoped it would help inspire young girls to pursue science and math. According to Mattel, the doll is a "one-off only," that Gilbert plans to display in her office, "next to other trophies."

"I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into STEM careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realize how vital careers in science are to help the world around us," she said. "My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist." 

Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford who was recognized with a damehood in Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Honors, has worked for decades developing vaccines against emerging viral pathogens and influenza. The Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine against the coronavirus, which she and her team created, has become one of the most widely distributed coronavirus vaccines in the world.

Mattel is honoring vaccine developer Dame Sarah Gilbert with her very own Barbie doll.  Andy Paradise/Mattel

Mattel also created Barbies of five other women working in STEM, who they call the "modern real-life heroes of the pandemic," including American emergency room nurse Amy O'Sullivan, who treated the first COVID patient at the Wycoff Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, and American frontline worker Dr. Audrey Cruz, who fought racial discrimination alongside other Asian-American health care workers. 

Mattel is also honoring Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa, a Canadian psychiatry resident who has battled systemic racism in health care, Brazilian biomedical researcher Dr. Jaqueline Goes de Jesus, who led sequencing of the genome of a Covid-19 variant in Brazil and Australian Dr. Kirby White, who developed a reusable surgical gown during the pandemic.

The company is also making a donation to WISE, Women in Science & Engineering, an organization chosen by Gilbert, in support of girls who are considering a career in STEM. 

"Our hope is to nurture and ignite the imaginations of children playing out their own storyline as heroes," Lisa McKnight, global head of Barbie and dolls at Mattel, said in a statement.

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