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International Day of Women & Girls in Science

Updated: Mar 20, 2022

There have been many talented and intelligent women in science that have made significant impacts in the world from discovering the structure of DNA to teaching us about wildlife ecology. Despite all of this excellent work by women in the field of science, according to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%.

In order to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, the United Nations General Assembly declared February 11th as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Below are some of the women that have inspired me to pursue a career in science: 

Rosalind Franklin I was first introduced to the work of Rosalind Franklin in my high school biology class. Rosalind Franklin was an amazing chemist and X-ray crystallographer who changed the way we thought about genetics and the molecular structure of our body. She had made astounding discoveries for DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite. Rosalind's perseverance in a male dominated work force inspired me growing up to pursue my passions in spite of any obstacles that I may face.  

Alice Ball  A pioneer in many ways; Alice Ball She was the first woman and first African American to receive a master's degree from the University of Hawaii, as well as the first female chemistry professor at the university. She is most remembered for developing an injectable oil extract that was the most effective treatment for leprosy until the 1940s. Alice's accomplishments illustrate that nothing is impossible, it just hasn't been done yet. 

Dian Fossey Dian Fossey was an American primatologist and conservationist known for undertaking an extensive study of mountain gorilla groups in the mountains of Rwanda from 1966 until her death in 1985. Fossey obtained her PhD at Cambridge University and was recognized as the world's leading authority on the physiology and behavior of mountain gorillas, defining gorillas as being dignified, highly social, gentle giants, with individual personalities, and strong family relationships. Dian Fossey inspired me to become an advocate for animal welfare and the preservation of animal species. 

Jane Goodall  When I was growing up, I had a keen interest in animals and the environment, but I was discouraged to find that women were underrepresented in the field of science, then I learned about the revolutionary work and life of Jane Goodall. Jane took an unconventional  approach to studying chimpanzees in the mountains of Rwanda by immersing herself into their habitat, and she has now set a new standard for the study of apes in the wild. Her field work findings suggest that many behavoirs once thought to be exclusively human, such as the ability to make and use tools, may have been inherited from common ancestors that we shared with chimpanzees millions of years ago. Jane's accomplishments is a testament that every individual can make a difference in this world. 

Mae C. Jemison Mae C. is an astronaut and physician who, on June 4, 1987, became the first African-American woman to be admitted into NASA’s astronaut training program. On September 12, 1992, Jemison finally flew into space with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, becoming the first African-American woman in space. In recognition of her accomplishments, Jemison has received several awards and honorary doctorates. Mae has taught us all to not  “let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” 

Winny Dong  Dr. Winny Dong is a Professor in Chemical and Materials Engineering and the Director of the McNair Scholars Program. The goal of the McNair Scholars Program is to increase the attainment of PhD degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society including first-generation, low-income individuals, and members from racial and ethnic groups historically underrepresented in graduate programs. The McNair Scholars program provided me with the opportunity to develop the appropriate  skillset for graduate studies as well as opened many other doors and opportunities for me. I am grateful for Winny as the director of the program for not only inspiring me as a women in science, but for welcoming me into the McNair Scholars Program. 

Alessandra Lopez  Alessandra is a graduate from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor's degree in Nursing, and a surgical nurse at City of Hope Cancer Treatment and Cancer Research Hospital. While there is a tremendous amount of science in a nurse's daily activities, there is also the necessity to have strong communication skills and empathy. Alessandra embodies this definition of a nurse; she is known as the "nice nurse" on her floor whom all of the patients want to have. She is also my older sister and best friend. Growing up she encouraged me to follow her footsteps in the pursuit of career in science while supporting me in my individual passions and endeavours. 

Martina Nagy  Martina is a an expert in Behavioral and Molecular Ecology, Social Systems, Sex-biased Dispersal, Bats and Wind Energy, and Bioacoustics. During the summer of 2014, I served as research mentor for Duke University and the Organization fro Tropical Studies at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica for which Martina was my research mentor. Our time together in the  tropics was spent researching the social organization of the Proboscis Bat (Rhynchonycteris naso), as well as determining if the bats exhibit individual signatures in their echolocation calls, and performing playback experiments using these calls. We had our work on this project published in Royal Society. You can read our article titled "From resource to female defence: the impact of roosting ecology on a bat's mating strategy" on the Royal Society Open Science website for free. Martina taught me that while there will be obstacles, there will be mistakes, with hard work there are no limits.  

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