Women in STEM: Five Female Role Models
There’s a rich history of women in STEM who have changed the world, honored for their achievements in science, technology, engineering, and math. Inspiring figures like Marie Curie, Countess Ada Lovelace, Mae Jemison, Dr. Jane Goodall, Florence Nightingale, and many more rightly hold pop culture titles of “greatest women in STEM” or “women who changed the world.” Yet today, we’re celebrating five modern women who are influencing the STEM world now.
Dr. Katie Bouman: The scientist who helped develop the first image of a black hole
The first-ever photo of a black hole was released on April 10, 2019, stunning people around the world. The image by Event Horizon Telescope showed us a black hole nearly 25 billion miles wide, nearly the size of our solar system, centered in a nearby galaxy. Once considered impossible, the captured image was made possible by a team of over 200 researchers, including 29-year-old Dr. Katie Bouman. Bouman began developing the formula for a new algorithm to produce the image three years ago at MIT. An image of Bouman’s reaction posted on her Facebook page went viral, boosting Bouman into the spotlight. Bouman humbly reminded everyone in another Facebook post that a team of scientists worldwide and years of hard work made the image possible.
Reshma Saujani: Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
Since its founding in 2012, Girls Who Code has helped nearly 200,000 girls through coding clubs, specialized courses, and a network of peers and role models. The national nonprofit has founder and CEO Reshma Saujani to thank. After beginning her career as an attorney and activist, Saujani became the first Indian-American woman to run for U.S. Congress in 2010. She visited local schools during her campaign and was exposed to the gender gap in technology classes. Saujani then founded Girls Who Code, which started as a single program for 20 girls in New York. It has expanded into nearly 500 clubs across the U.S., not to mention summer computer science courses, college organizations, and summer immersion programs.
Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya: Founder of Beyond Curie
Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya began her career researching Alzheimer’s disease at Columbia University. It was there she realized that she, like many other scientists, have a problem communicating the importance of their work. Phingbodhipakkiya transitioned from neuroscience to design and founded Beyond Curie in 2017. Beyond Curie highlights women in STEM, like Maryam Mirzakhani, who was the first woman and first Iranian to receive the prestigious Fields Medal for mathematics. Or YouYou Tu, who won the Nobel Prize for her discovery of artemisinin, a compound used to treat malaria. Phingbodhipakkiya also founded The Leading Strand in 2016, which brings together design and science to communicate the nuances and importance of research.
Majora Carter: Environmental activist and founder of Sustainable South Bronx
Majora Carter was born and raised in the South Bronx, but she found it hard to return to after college in the late 90s. When she learned that the city was planning to build a waste facility nearby, in addition to a sewage treatment plant and power plants, Carter was appalled. She shifted from organizing art projects and film festivals into environmental activism. Carter founded Sustainable South Bronx, an environmental nonprofit that tackles both economic and environmental issues in the area as well as throughout New York City. The organization provides green jobs training, community greening programs, and more. However, that’s not all: Carter founded StartUp Box in 2015, which simultaneously offers QA testing services for apps and games, and increases local job opportunities for people in the South Bronx.
Anne Wojcicki: Founder and CEO of 23andMe
If you’re unfamiliar with how genetic testing product 23andMe works, the process is simple. You send the company a sample of your saliva with a kit provided to you through the mail. In just a few weeks, you receive a personalized report that can tell you about your ancestry, your future health, wellness insights, or hereditary conditions you may pass on. Founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki believes that by understanding the human genome, we’ll be able to improve quality of life, and “eventually understand and detect diseases earlier.” Although the FDA barred personal genomics companies from releasing information about disease risks in 2013, 23andMe worked through the challenge. It now offers FDA-approved tests for various health factors, like Type 2 diabetes, celiac disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
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