Tagged: women in STEM

Dame of the Day: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

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Today’s Dame of the Day is Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (March 23, 1953-). As a student, Mazumdar-Shaw wanted to study medicine but did not receive a scholarship and could not afford the course. Instead, her father suggested she travel to Australia and study fermentation science. When she returned to India, she tried to find a job as a brewmaster but was told it was “a man’s job.” While working in Ireland, she met up with a biochem executive looking for a person with knowledge of enzymes to run the company’s India branch. Today, her company Biocon Biochemicals not only contributes innovative advances in biotech but also provides free and low-cost medical care to rural communities across India.

Dame of the Day: Jean Bartik

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Today’s Dame of the Day is Jean Bartik (December 27, 1924 – March 23, 2011). After studying math in college, Bartik got a job with the U.S. Army calculating ballistics trajectories by hand. As technology advanced, Bartik leveled up in a big way. She became one of six women programmers to develop for the ENIAC computer. Goodbye, hand calculations!

Dame of the Day: Ada Lovelace

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Today’s Dame of the Day is Ada Lovelace (December 10, 1815-November 27, 1852). While her mother disapproved of her interest in mathematics, Lovelace defied her wishes and continued to explore the subject. As a colleague and contemporary of Charles Babbage, Lovelace created the first algorithm to be used by a machine. She frequently checked Babbage’s work, making her the first debugger in the nascent digital world.

Dame of the Day: Tu Youyou

Tu Youyou

Today’s Dame of the Day is Tu Youyou (December 30, 1930-). During the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh charged Chinese scientists with the mission of discovering a cure for malaria. At the time, this seemed like a daunting task: researchers had already tested over 200,000 compounds without success. In spite of these odds, Youyou drew on her extensive knowledge of ancient Chinese medicine and discovered a cure for malaria; she published her findings anonymously in 1977. Her work later earned her a Nobel Price in Physiology or Medicine, making her the first Chinese Nobel laureate in either physiology or medicine.

Safecity: Documenting Street Harassment

We live in a data-driven society: to address a given problem, you first have to prove it exists. In the past year, organizations like Hollaback have drawn attention to street harassment through videos and social media campaigns. But statistically speaking, how prevalent is the problem? Who’s logging complaints? Sometimes, street harassment takes the form of an annoying catcall or a demand that a woman smile. But other times, it can be downright dangerous: United Nations Women estimates that, over the course of a lifetime, one in three women experience sexual assault.

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Elsa D’Silva. Image courtesy of Impact Hub

Safecity founder Elsa D’Silva wants to change this statistic. In her native India, it is estimated that a rape occurs every 20 minutes. But with the guilt, fear, and shame often associated with street harassment, it is believed that many cases go unreported. D’Silva conceived of Safecity as a way for victims to anonymously report incidents and shed light on previously invisible crimes.

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Image courtesy of Rising Voices

In addition to collecting reports, Safecity aggregates the data and highlight trends on a map. This visual reporting style helps women take precautions in high-harassment areas and provides evidence of the problem to lawmakers. Outside of the app, D’Silva and her team run sexual harassment awareness workshops to empower victims and shift the attitudes of men and boys. As D’Silva points out, India does not teach sex education, so Safecity also aims to change attitudes about sex, gender, and relationships.

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Image courtesy of Tech in Asia

Currently, Safecity collects reports in two forms: on the web and via phone callback. However, the team is working on an app to allow more detailed documentation. Follow Safecity on social media to track their progress and learn about future initiatives.

Dame of the Day: Patricia Longley Cochran

Patricia Longley Cochran

Today’s Dame of the Day is Patricia Longley Cochran. Currently, Cochran serves as the Executive Director of the Alaska Native Science Commission. As a member of the Alaskan Inuit tribe, Cochran works to connect tribal members with local scientific initiatives and research. Her efforts also highlight the impact of climate change on the area’s indigenous communities.

Hello, Pluto: The Women Behind New Horizons

Yesterday morning, the world woke up to witness a corner of the universe three billion miles away. Since the 1970s, the 200 member team behind the New Horizons mission has carefully prepared for this critical flyby moment. On Tuesday morning, NASA’s probe cruised within 8,000 whiles of Pluto, transmitting color photographs of the planet and its five moons back to Earth. When the team witnessed the images for the first time, they gasped and burst into thunderous applause.

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Image courtesy of Brit and Co. 

Who’s to thank for this incredible mission? As it turns out, a great number of women. Of the 200 staff members, 25% of them are women in STEM. We’ve noted in the past that historically, the path to women in space (and STEM in general) has not been an easy one. Perhaps what’s most refreshing is that, when asked how it feels to be part of a team with so many women, the answer was simply: normal. Deputy project scientist Kim Ennico confessed, “I’ve never really thought about it. I’m really only conscious of it when there are only women in a meeting room.”

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Image courtesy of The Atlantic

Excited to learn more? Don’t worry; the mission didn’t end on July 14. In fact, it’s just getting started. Because of its distance from Earth, the probe will continue to send new data for months to come. Check up on the New Horizons website for periodic updates and a glimpse of what’s in store when data collection ends.  You can also interact with other New Horizons fans on Facebook and Twitter.

Dame of the Day: Tracy Chou

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Today’s Dame of the Day is Tracy Chou. As an accomplished programmer, Chou has written code for Facebook, Google, Quora, and Pinterest. But when she pushed the tech world to come clean about the number of women they hired, Chou became a lighting rod for the industry’s less-than-diverse hiring practices. By insisting that tech companies apply the same data driven approaches they use to solve technical problems, Chou drew attention to the industry’s diversity problem and set them on a course to correct it.

 

Dame of the Day: Pardis Sabeti

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Today’s Dame of the Day is Pardis Sabeti (December 25, 1975-). As a computational biologist and medical geneticist, Sabeti studies how genes impact the evolution of disease. In 2014, Sabeti and her team were able to track the outbreak of ebola back to a single encounter between an animal and a human. Once they pinpointed the origin, the team studied the RNA shifts that led the disease to mutate over time.

Dame of the Day: Jennifer Doudna

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Today’s Dame of the Day is Jennifer Doudna. As a biochemist, Doudna and her team mapped the three-dimensional structure of the Tetrahymena Group I ribozyme, an integral part of cellular structure. After she relocated from Yale to UC-Berkeley, she divided her time between studying RNA interference, how MicroRNAs impact translation, and the CRISPR system (pockets of DNA with repeating base pairs that, if modified, can impact specific genes).