RFS Briefings - December 21, 2020

Dear Colleagues, 

I am pleased to include another issue of RFS Briefings with some timely and encouraging updates on women in science. 

Thank you to everyone who joined our end-of-year virtual meeting, Labs, Leaders, Critical Connections! It was truly inspiring to hear astounding accomplishments of women and minorities in science as well as significant challenges yet to be addressed. From groundbreaking research to prestigious awards and recognition, our event provided incredible access to emerging stars as well as those who continue to lead the way. Sessions covered the academic world as well as industry; corporations and start-ups; and U.S. and international colleagues and partnerships. In case you missed any sessions, you can watch them here.

Here are some photos from our event:


“Opening Remarks” with Mary Ann Liebert, Founder of the Rosalind Franklin Society, and Rita Colwell, President of the Rosalind Franklin Society.


“COVID-19 Research: News from the Front” with Karla Shepard Rubinger, Executive Director of Rosalind Franklin Society; Akiko Iwasaki, Immunologist at Yale University, and Angela Rasmussen, Virologist at Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security.

“How and When to Add Voices” with Karla Shepard Rubinger, Executive Director of Rosalind Franklin Society; Julianna LeMieux, Senior Science Writer at Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News; Alexis Stutzman, Founder of Black in Genetics, and Raven Baxter, Founder of STEMbassy and Raven the Science Maven.

 “The Best of Both Worlds: Corporate Leadership meets Corporate Responsibility” with Cassandra Wesselman, Head of Clinical Solutions & Patient Empowerment at OnRamp Bioinformatics, Inc.; Nicole Boice, CEO and Founder of Global Genes; Yelena Wetherill, Director, Alliance Management, Business Development and Licensing (BD&L) at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), and Susan Tousi, Chief Product Officer and Senior Vice President at Illumina.
Congratulations to Endpoints News’ Women in Biopharma 2020! The report celebrates women at the forefront of subduing Covid-19 — either with diagnostics, vaccines or treatments — and honors those working day in and day out to address other equally pressing medical needs. 


Please continue to share important news and opportunities with us so that we may share it with you and others who are committed to supporting the careers of exceptional women in science.  

With regards in these trying times,  

Karla Signature

Karla Shepard Rubinger
Executive Director
Rosalind Franklin Society


Get to know Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Biden's CDC director pick. Biden tapped Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, to lead the CDC."I began my medical career at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and I've spent my life ever since working to research, treat, and combat infectious diseases," she tweeted recently. "I'm honored to be called to lead the brilliant team at the CDC. We are ready to combat this virus with science and facts."

These nine women should have key roles in the new administration. “Given the long history of science advisors and cabinet positions held by white men, we are heartened that the incoming administration has made an explicit commitment to build a diverse administration that is intersectional, with women, nonbinary individuals and people of color elevated to senior positions. 500 Women Scientists strongly supports the appointment of outstanding women for leadership positions within the Biden-Harris administration; we know these women will be incredible assets to the administration, will value science, and will serve the nation with honor and dignity.”

The Memorial Sloan Ketter-ing Cancer Center (MSK) community mourns the loss of our esteemed colleague Kathryn Anderson. Dr. Anderson identified critical genes that control the development of the embryo, first in invertebrates (fruit flies) and subsequently in the mammal (mouse). At MSK, she is known for pioneering the use of forward genetics, which she had used in the fruit fly, in the study of mouse development.

‘Nobody sees us’: testing-lab workers strain under demand. “Doctors and nurses are very visible, but we work behind the scenes,” said Marissa Larson, a medical laboratory scientist supervisor at the University of Kansas Health System in an article for the New York Times. “And we are underwater.”

Women take the lead in vaccine development. The swift development of many vaccines for COVID-19 could end up being the biggest scientific advance in decades — and it has been driven by people who, in another era, never would have had a chance. Novavax’s team is led by Nita Patel, an immigrant from Gujarat, India. Her vaccine team is identified as “all-female.” The core work behind the mRNA approach comes from Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian-born émigré who came to the U.S. to work on RNA-related issues.

The story of mRNA: How a once-dismissed idea became a leading technology in the Covid vaccine race. Katalin Karikó, a senior vice president at BioNTech, is the scientist behind the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. She spent the 1990s collecting rejections. Her work, attempting to harness the power of mRNA to fight disease, was too far-fetched for government grants, corporate funding, and even support from her own colleagues, according to an article on STAT News.

The 35-year-old scientist who led Moderna's efforts to create a COVID-19 vaccine. Hamilton Bennett, Senior Director of Vaccine Access and Partnerships at Moderna, has emerged as one of the unsung heroes of the pandemic, working feverishly and tirelessly behind the scenes throughout the year to help engineer a vaccine that could potentially save millions of lives.

AAAS announces 2021 Marion Milligan Mason Award Winners. Congratulations to Julia Kalow (Northwestern University), Gabriela Schlau-Cohen (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Marissa Tremblay (Purdue University), and Lauren Zarzar (Pennsylvania State University) for winning the Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences.

From left, Julia Kalow, Gabriela Schlau-Cohen, Marissa Tremblay and Lauren Zarzar are the winners of the 2021 Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences. | Courtesy of winners

AAAS announces leading scientists elected as 2020 fellows. Dr. Deborah Bronk, President of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, and former CSSP Chair, has been named as an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow. She was recognized for substantial research advances on the marine nitrogen cycle and for leadership in the ocean science research community. Bigelow Labs is an esteemed member of our Council of Academic Institutions.

Meet the team of women who want to eradicate Covid-19 under Biden. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an expert on healthcare equity for marginalized communities, is one of three co-chairs on Biden's Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. Also included is FDA and National Security Council veteran Dr. Luciana Borio; HIV and tuberculosis expert and former NYC Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Dr. Celine Gounder; Dr. Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former head of the Chicago Department of Public Health; and Loyce Pace, executive director and president of Global Health Council, according to Know Your Value.

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Dr. Luciana Borio and Dr. Celine Gounder. Yale University via AP/Reuters/NBC

Fauci wants people to know that one of the lead scientists who developed the Covid-19 vaccine is a Black woman. "The very vaccine that's one of the two that has absolutely exquisite levels -- 94 to 95% efficacy against clinical disease and almost 100% efficacy against serious disease that are shown to be clearly safe -- that vaccine was actually developed in my institute's vaccine research center by a team of scientists led by Dr. Barney Graham and his close colleague, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, or Kizzy Corbett," Anthony Fauci said.

Women of the Nobel factory share their stories. From sequencing to stardom — alumnae of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology reflect on how they succeeded in science. The LMB, a research institute with a headcount of more than 800 scientists and support personnel, claims 27 Nobel prizewinners among its staff and alumni.

One of these astronauts may be the first woman on the moon. “Our goal is to go to the moon sustainably, to learn how to live and work on another world,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a meeting of the National Space Council, announcing the names of the 18 astronauts selected for training. Of the 18, nine are women—and one of them might well be the first to walk on the moon. Half the group are experienced fliers, such as Christina Koch, who just set the record for the longest-duration spaceflight for a woman, according to an article on National Geographic. 

Penn State chemical engineering and Schreyer Scholar alumna Paula Garcia Todd has been named Woman of the Year in Engineering by Women in Technology (WIT). She was recognized at the virtual 2020 Woman of the Year in STEAM Awards Gala on Nov. 12. “Women in Technology holds a mission to ‘empower girls and women to excel in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM) from the classroom to the boardroom,’” Garcia Todd said.

Congratulations to Dr. Natalie Kuldell, Founder and Executive Director of BioBuilder, for being named as one of the 26 winners for the Million Women Mentors (MWM) Trailblazer Awards, celebrating women in STEM.

Canan Dagdeviren wants more women in STEM to “not give up”.Being an independent woman in this century, in this country, is really difficult. At the beginning of my career, I was really affected by comments from my male colleagues. But then I realized, I don’t have time to respond. It's time for me to do my research and to answer those comments with my work. And so, that’s what I did,” says Canan Dagdeviren, a materials scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Rosalind Franklin University researcher elected AAAS Fellow. Judith Potashkin, PhD, Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Director of Faculty Affairs for Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, has been elected to the rank of fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for her research on Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Of course the Rosalind Franklin University is an esteemed member of our Council of Academic Institutions.

Catherine Dulac finds brain circuitry behind sex-specific behaviors. Catherine Dulac, a neuroscientist and developmental biologist at Harvard University, was awarded the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in September, the richest single personal award in the scientific world. The citation for the prize hailed the success of her work, which connected behaviors to specific neural mechanisms and “overturned decades-old dogma in behavioral science.” 

Accounting for sex and gender makes for better science. At the end of last month, the European Commission announced that its grant recipients will be required to incorporate sex and gender analyses into the design of research studies. Science and scientists have a troubled history of failing to account for sex and gender when designing research. For decades, crash test dummies were based on male bodies, according to Nature.


Apply for Forbes Next 1000: The Next 1000 list celebrates the ambitious sole proprietors, self-funded shops and pre-revenue startups who are redefining what it means to build and run a business today, especially in the “new normal.”

Apply to be a 2021 FWIS Fellow: You could be awarded $60,000! They’re seeking five exceptional female scientists looking to advance their research and serve as role models for the next generation of girls in STEM. Candidates must have completed their PhD and have started in their postdoctoral research position by the application deadline. Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to apply. Applications due January 29, 2021.

Do you know a remarkable woman who exemplifies humanism in the healthcare arena? The Arnold P. Gold Foundation is seeking nominations for the 2021 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Healthcare Award, now until January 8. This prestigious award is presented annually to a woman who has demonstrated the values of humanism, empathy and compassion in her work with underserved or marginalized populations in the healthcare arena.

The British Council has launched a scholarship program in partnership with 19 UK universities aimed at benefiting women from the Americas, South Asia and South East Asia. Are you a woman with a degree in STEM subjects passionate about your study? You could receive a scholarship to study a master's degree in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics programme at a leading UK university.



Marianna Limas, Social Media Manager 
Nilda Rivera, Partnership and Events Manager