RFS Briefings - February 1, 2021

Dear Colleagues, 

STAT’s biotech podcast, "The Readout LOUD", recently dedicated an entire episode to Sharon Begley, their revered and beloved colleague who died this month from complications of lung cancer. First, STAT’s Eric Boodman discussed Sharon’s path-breaking career and what he learned from reporting out her obituary. Then, a trio of STAT editors called in to talk about what it was like to work with Sharon, and they heard from a number of her colleagues about what made her a singular writer, mentor, officemate, and friend. 

Sharon Begley speaking at a Rosalind Franklin Board Meeting and Colloquium.
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


Janet Woodcock to lead FDA on interim basis. Janet Woodcock, who has led the Food and Drug Administration’s drug review efforts for years, is slated to oversee the agency on an interim basis. Dr. Woodcock joined the FDA in 1986, and has most recently overseen the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. 

All-female team delivers COVID-19 vaccines by snowmobile in harshest of conditions in rural Alaska. The team of one medical doctor, one pharmacist, and two nurses traveled in one day by plane, sled and snowmobile to deliver the vaccine to people across rural northern Alaska. "It's just such an incredible opportunity to work with them," said Meredith Dean, a 25-year-old resident pharmacist, for Good Morning America. "It was definitely an impactful and powerful moment to realize that we've all braved quite a bit to get there and provide care." 

‘Inspired choice’: Biden appoints sociologist Alondra Nelson to top science post. Alondra Nelson has been appointed deputy director of science and society at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “She understands exactly what is needed to ensure that research has maximum impact on policy,” according to Kate Crawford, a senior principal researcher at Microsoft. “I think that is the real gift that the White House is getting” with Nelson on the team, she said in an article for Nature News.

Alondra Nelson, president of the Social Science Research Council and the Harold F. Linder Professor of Social Science at the Institute or Advanced Study. Credit: Dan Komoda.

The University of Western Australia’s first female math professor receives highest Australia Day honors. Professor Cheryl Praeger is one of just four people Australia-wide to be awarded a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia. She was acknowledged for her eminent service to mathematics; to tertiary education; to international organizations; as a leading academic and researcher and as a champion of women in STEM careers.

Princeton researchers study the many impacts of COVID-19. Within days of shutting down their laboratories in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Princeton researchers were asking how they could help. As people began working from home, Maria Micaela Sviatschi, assistant professor of economics and public affairs in Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs, decided to analyze the increase in domestic violence. Although the study is not yet complete, some women reported abusive behaviors. To study the effect of business shutdowns, assistant professors of economics Natalie Cox and Arlene Wong, with co-authors at the University of Chicago, examined bank account data from millions of customers. They found that household spending plunged similarly across all income levels in March and April 2020, and that government payments appear to have benefited low-income households.

Diversity in STEM

We need STEM mentors who can reduce bias and fight stereotypes. Building a diverse and highly-skilled generation of scientists begins by example. To thrive, women in STEM need a mentoring environment that allows them to be heard and acknowledged. “Mentors must actively engage trainees while listening and allowing for their intellectual independence. In chaotic and unpredictable times, creating a sensitive and dynamic generation of scientists begins by example,” writes Stephanie Knezz, an assistant professor of instruction in the Department of Chemistry at Northwestern University.

Making science fair: Applying psychology to create equity in STEM. In this webinar, Aziza Belcher Platt discusses the impact of systemic inequity at both a personal and societal level and provides tools to assess racial-cultural identities, intersections, and experiences. 


Listen to this episode of Lightbulb Moment with Wyss Institute 's Technology Translation Director Angelika Fretzen, where she discusses business, entrepreneurship, pharmaceuticals, and their relevance in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Certain of her own exceptional nature, physician Elizabeth Blackwell dismissed those who aided her. In The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women—and Women to Medicine, Janice Nimura writes that “when the Blackwell sisters died, there were more than nine thousand women doctors in the United States, about six percent of all physicians.” “Today,” Nimura continues, “thirty five percent of physicians—and slightly more than half of all medical students—are female.” 

Ten suggestions for female faculty and staff during the pandemic: 1) Find a peer group of women to provide professional support, 2) When you have energy to do more than the minimum, use that in support of women and underrepresented groups, 3) Whatever help you can get, take it, 4) Do your best to remember that others are struggling too—be empathetic and work to build a community, and more.

Why you should ‘be an actor, not an ally’ for women in STEM. Anna Rafferty, director of strategy at Johnson & Johnson Ireland, talks about the company’s program to support women in STEM. “Don’t focus on raising awareness,” she said. “What I would say is be an actor, not an ally. And do get out there and get active. But I think also join forces with others; don’t try and do it on your own.

A fireside chat with Vicki Sato. Dr. Vicki Sato is a chairman of the board at Vir Biotechnology and Denali Therapeutics. In this episode of Science Rehashed, Dr. Vicki Sato shares her eclectic career journey and some hard-earned lessons, as well as the changing face of the biotech industry and the current urgency of science-driven entrepreneurship.

Opinion: Peer review study compromises response to gender bias. Ada Hagan and colleagues analyzed the peer-review outcomes from 108,000 manuscript submissions to 13 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) journals. Their study found a consistent trend for manuscripts submitted by women corresponding authors to receive more negative outcomes than those submitted by men. In an opinion piece, she argues that a recent analysis that claimed no evidence of gender-based peer review outcomes fails to account for several factors.


New book: Women: Why equality, health and safety matter to everyone. “Women have too long been an afterthought: denied equal opportunity at home and in society and ignored by science. Recent decades brought progress toward some measure of parity, but yawning gaps remain, and some are growing, threatening to undermine everyone’s well-being.” This new book highlights research on the scientific and economic implications of gender disparity in the realms of economics, politics, education and health care. 

The Science of Mentorship Podcast: In this episode, Dr. Akiko Iwasaki tells the story of her journey through STEMM academia and beyond as a woman from Japan. There were times she was discouraged from continuing her studies, but supportive mentors guided her through difficult situations. Dr. Akiko Iwasaki is a professor and researcher in immunology at the Yale School of Medicine. She has contributed significant research to the field of innate immunity against multiple viruses and cancer. She was a speaker at our recent meeting Labs, Leaders, Critical Connections. 

Dr. Akiko Iwasaki,
Yale School of Medicine.


Don't miss these 2 eSymposia virtual meetings, held jointly. "Obesity: From Cell to Patient" and "Diabetes: Many Faces of the Disease," February 1-3, 2021. 

Apply today for the 2021 Science & PINS Prize for Neuromodulation! The winner is awarded US$25,000 and publication of an essay in Science. The Science & PINS Prize is awarded for innovative research that modulates neural activity through physical (electrical, magnetic, optical) stimulation of targeted sites in the nervous system with implications for translational medicine.

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