It’s a crying shame that most of us will struggle when asked to name a scientist of the female persuasion, so we’ve rounded up five amazing women that are changing the world – and blazing the trail for women in science on their way.
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan described the new president of their Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as “One of the world’s most respected neuroscientists and geneticists” and a “legitimate rock star”, so it’s little wonder they’ve put her in charge of the US$3 billion they’re throwing towards curing, preventing and managing all diseases come the end of this century. Cori first came to the world’s attention with her studies on roundworms (that, in their genetic makeup, are comparable to mammals) and has made a career out of finding the causes of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and autism.
Not only is this biomedical engineer the co-founder and CEO of EpiBone – a revolutionary bone reconstruction company that allows patients to ‘grow their own bone’ – in her role of senior fellow at Columbia’s stem cell and tissue engineering labs, she also creates cardiac tissue to patch-up damage in heart attack patients. And she serves as an adjunct professor of Electrical Engineering at New York’s Cooper Union. On her to-do list is creating a living heart for transplants and perfecting a bone graft that’ll cut down recovery times for the 900,000 patients who undergo bone-related surgeries each year.
Sitting on a panel with Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio at the White House last year, atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe spoke out on the colossal issue of climate change and what can be done to curb it (Obama asked her advice, in fact) as she’s been doing – loudly – over the course of her working life (that’s seen more than 120 peer-reviewed papers, abstracts and other publications come into being). Katharine’s the Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas Tech University and also founder and CEO of ATMOS Research, where she works with organisations to assess the potential impacts of climate change on their infrastructure and nut out future solutions.
As the Vice President of Aging at Google’s biotech company, Calico, Cynthia Kenyon leads a team of scientists hard at work developing ways to slow aging and fend off age-related diseases (Calico would ideally like to see us living 100 years more than we already do). She came to the fore of the science world, much like Cori, with roundworms, and her discovering that altering a single gene in these parasites could double their lifespan. Cynthia’s since found which genes help us to live longer, and revealed that there’s a hormone-signalling pathway behind the rate that we age. In short, if anyone’s going to find the elixir of youth, it’s this woman.
Searching for a new planet Earth is all in a day’s work for planetary scientist and astrophysicist Sara Seager, known in science circles as an ‘astronomical Indiana Jones’. She’s discovered no less than 700 new planets on the hunt – all uninhabitable, as yet, so the search continues – with her many claims to fame including her invention of the method currently used to study exoplanet (read: a planet that orbits a star other than the Sun) atmospheres. Based out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, our minds can only boggle at what might be if Sara succeeds in finding another life-sustaining world.