Women in STEM News

“If women and girls don’t see themselves on screen as STEM professionals, they’re less likely to pursue those career paths.”

-Geena Davis

Here's the latest on the Women in STEM.

July 31, 2019

The Pioneering Female Botanist Who Sweetened a Nation and Saved a Valley

In 1970, the Indian government planned to flood 8.3 square kilometers of pristine evergreen tropical forest by building a hydroelectric plant to provide power and jobs to the state of Kerala. And they would have succeeded—if it weren’t for a burgeoning people’s science movement, buttressed by a pioneering female botanist. At 80 years old, Janaki Ammal used her status as a valued national scientist to call for the preservation of this rich hub of biodiversity. Today Silent Valley National Park in Kerala, India, stands as one of the last undisturbed swaths of forest in the country, bursting with lion-tailed macaques, endangered orchids and nearly 1,000 species of endemic flowering plants. Sometimes called “the first Indian woman botanist,” Ammal leaves her mark in the pages of history as a talented plant scientist who developed several hybrid crop species still grown today, including varieties of sweet sugarcane that India could grow on its own lands instead of importing from abroad. Read More…

July 20, 2019

Meet Morgan Beller, the 26-year-old woman behind Facebook’s plan to make its own currency

On February 12, 2018, Silicon Valley investor and cryptocurrency technologist Howard Wu was invited to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park to discuss the implications, opportunities and risks of introducing more than 2 billion online users to blockchain technology. The invitation didn’t come from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, or Vice President and former PayPal executive David Marcus, the current leader of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency proposal and Calibra wallet. Instead, he met with Morgan Beller, a rather new employee in Facebook’s corporate development unit who treated him to a cup of joe from the Philz Coffee on the company’s campus. Read More…

July 18, 2019

Edith Irby Jones, trailblazer for African American doctors, dies at 91

Edith Irby Jones, who would grow up to be a pioneering African American doctor, was a young girl in rural Arkansas when she lost a sister to typhoid fever in the 1930s. “The children who were able to have medical care would live,” Dr. Jones told an interviewer years later. “I saw the doctor going in and out of their homes. Although it may not be true, I felt that if I had been a physician, or if there had been physicians available, or we had adequate money, that a physician would have come to us.” Amid the tragedy of her sister’s death, and perhaps unaware of the obstacles she would face, she vowed to become a doctor — but a “different kind of doctor,” she said. “Money wasn’t going to make any difference with me,” Dr. Jones told an oral historian with the University of Arkansas Libraries. “And so I have spent my lifetime trying to live out a childhood dream.” Read More…

July 17, 2019

The Woman Who Discovered the Cause of Global Warming Was Long Overlooked. Her Story Is a Reminder to Champion All Women Leading on Climate

Eunice Newton Foote rarely gets the credit she’s due. The American scientist, who was born exactly 200 years ago on Wednesday, was the first woman in climate science. It was back in 1856 that Foote theorized that changes in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could affect the Earth’s temperature. She broke scientific ground that remains more relevant than ever in 2019, but history overlooked her until just a few years ago. Foote arrived at her breakthrough idea through experimentation. Read More…

July 17, 2019

A tribute to the life and legacy of Maryam Mirzakhani

The second death anniversary of Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani has passed quietly early this week. Not many people in Bangladesh are probably familiar with the work of this mathematics genius, but globally, she is held in high regard because of her ground-breaking work. For those who do not know, Maryam Mirzakhani was the only female mathematician to have won a Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics, often described as the Nobel Prize for this subject. Read More…

July 16, 2019

As the space industry evolves, women are taking on more visible roles

From Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, to Mae Jemison, who became the first African-American woman in space aboard the shuttle Endeavor, the face of the space industry has changed quite a bit since the Apollo 11 launch 50 years ago. But even then, there were women paving the way for others before and during the Apollo program. Today, women and minorities play prominent roles in major space operations at NASA and in private and public space companies. Standing in the Kennedy Space Center firing room, where hundreds managed the launch of Saturn V and Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969, Charlie Blackwell-Thompson stood next to a picture of launch control at the day Apollo 11 launched 50 years ago. “That’s JoAnn Morgan,” Blackwell-Thompson said, pointing to the lone woman in the photo. “She is a kind of a local hero to many of us and really was instrumental in laying the groundwork for other women that would follow.” Read More…

July 12, 2019

An Atlanta doctor is now the first black woman president of the American Medical Association

Patrice Harris was one of those kids who always had a quick answer when adults asked what she wanted to be when she grew up: a doctor. Growing up in Bluefield, West Virginia, in the 1960s and ’70s, though, she didn’t see many black women wearing scrubs and stethoscopes. Instead, she found her role model on the small screen: Marcus Welby, M.D. “I never met an African American female doctor until after I started college,” says Harris. “But I liked that the character not only took care of his patients inside the exam room but outside the exam room as well. He cared about the community, not just the treatment. And I still believe that, as a physician, you have a platform to address big issues.” Read More…

July 09, 2019

The woman who mapped the moon: An Arizona geologist and the Apollo 17 lunar landing

Baerbel Lucchitta talked about how luck played a role in her career as a planetary geologist, but hers was a case of someone making their own luck. Lucchitta did just that when she was a young mapmaker working on the Apollo moon missions with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology branch in Flagstaff. She was one of the first women to work in that field and forged a remarkable career in science. Read More…

July 05, 2019

How Poppy Northcutt cracked NASA’s boys’ club and became a feminist icon

While NASA was busy making history by getting men ever closer to the moon, a quieter revolution was taking place in its Mission Control’s Planning and Analysis room. There, in a sea of slide rules and Y chromosomes, sat Francis “Poppy” Northcutt, NASA’s first female Mission Control engineer. Starting in 1965, Northcutt conducted trajectory analysis for Apollo missions 8-17, from the first crewed mission to leave Earth’s orbit through the final moonwalk. Read More…

July 03, 2019

The First Black Woman to Earn a Physics PhD From University of Glasgow Just Graduated

It’s 2019, and white men still, largely, hold the power in many areas of society. So when a black woman shatters every glass ceiling in her way, it’s particularly exciting. Monifa Phillips, PhD, did just that when she graduated from University of Glasgow’s School of Physics as the first ever black woman to earn a PhD there. Phillips tweeted out her accomplishment on June 30, showing herself in her academic regalia and holding her thesis. But Phillip’s achievement isn’t special just because it’s a first, it’s particularly sweet because she made it happen for herself. Read More…