RFS Briefings - February 16, 2021

Dear Colleagues, 

On 11 February 2021, the United Nations Headquarters held the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science – and the theme this year celebrated the women scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. Here are just some of the women in STEM around the globe who have been making a difference during the pandemic:

  • Dr. Özlem Türeci, co-founder of biotechnology company BioNTech, which helped produce the first vaccine.
  • Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Chief Scientist who has been coordinating international work on vaccine development.
  • Ramida Juengpaisal, who built a COVID-19 tracker for Bangkok – overnight.
  • Professor Sarah Gilbert, the Oxford Project Lead for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
  • Somaya Faruqi, who developed a low-cost, lightweight ventilator in Afghanistan.
  • Neema Kaseje, the Founder of Surgical Systems Research Group in Kenya, which seeks to rapidly expand access to health services.
  • Professor Devi Sridhar, Professor and Chair of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University, and a leading authority on COVID-19 in the UK.
  • Dr. Anggia Prasetyoputri, who was awarded the 2020 L’Oréal-UNESCO National Fellowship For Women in Science (FWIS) by L’Oréal Indonesia for her research on bacterial coinfections in COVID-19 patients using swab sample sequencing.

In other news, The Vilcek Foundation launched its latest coloring book celebrating the scientific careers and contributions of 19 outstanding scientists​, including of course Rosalind Franklin, and several RFS board members and speakers. The book includes descriptions of each of the 19 featured scientists’ work, accompanied by illustrations of the scientists, as well as a list of organizations that support gender equity and diversity in STEM.

In honor of Black History Month, we are celebrating the incredible research of Black scientists. Follow us on Twitter! According to Martina G. Efeyini, a toxicologist, science communicator and STEM advocate, movements such as #BlackInMicro and #BlackInChem started because the organizers realized that they did not see scientists who looked like them, and they wanted that to change. These movements made learning about Black scientists more accessible and changed the narrative of what a scientist looks like. They also created a safe space and an environment where encouraging the next generation of Black scientists was at the forefront.” 

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


Research! America to honor public health leadership and innovation in the United States’ response to the pandemic. The BUILDING THE FOUNDATION AWARD, recognizing individuals whose basic research discoveries played a pivotal role in the response to COVID-19, will be awarded to Katalin Karikó, PhD, a Senior Vice President of BioNTech, and Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, Director of Vaccine Research and Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases Division, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

The CLEAR VOICE AWARD will honor two individuals whose effective communication of important health and science information to the public contributed to the fight against COVID-19. Anne Schuchat, MD (RADM, USPHS, RET), the Principal Deputy Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Michelle A. Williams, SM, ScD, Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development. 

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984, will be honored for his continued leadership in service to our nation with the OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN PUBLIC HEALTH AWARD

Postage stamp to honor female physicist who many say should have won the Nobel Prize. Chien-Shiung Wu, a Chinese-American physicist, proved, essentially, that the universe knows its right hand from its left. She never received a Nobel Prize for her demonstration of the effect called parity violation. Now, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will issue a stamp commemorating Chien-Shiung Wu on 11 February, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Chien-Shiung Wu won numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science in 1975.

New research to explore seaweed for ocean, economic health. Nichole Price, a Senior Research Scientist at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, is leading a project that will lay the scientific foundations for a new tool to help restore the health and productivity of our oceans. The researchers will receive a nearly $900,000 grant that will explore how kelp aquaculture can remediate negative effects of climate change.

This COVID-vaccine designer is tackling vaccine hesitancy — in churches and on Twitter. Kizzmekia Corbett, an immunologist at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), debunks misinformation and shares virus science with her more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. She is one of the scientists who in early 2020 helped to develop an mRNA-based vaccine for COVID-19, in collaboration with biotech firm Moderna of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Kizzmekia Corbett is an immunologist at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Pull Up a Chair with Dr. Freire: The COVID Conversations. In this new podcast, Dr. Maria Freire, President and Executive Director of the FNIH, interviews leading researchers and healthcare partners who are working tirelessly to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic. She was a speaker at a recent RFS Board Meeting & Colloquium.

Congratulations to the outstanding mathematicians and theoretical physicists who have been awarded Simons Fellowships in 2021! The Simons Fellows program extends academic leaves from one term to a full year, enabling recipients to focus solely on research for the long periods often necessary for significant advances.

Yale postdoc wins first Cell Press Rising Black Scientists Award. Chrystal Starbird is a postdoctoral fellow who works in the Ferguson Lab at the Yale Cancer Biology Institute. She recently won the first Cell Press Rising Black Scientists Award for an essay detailing her experiences as a person from an underrepresented group in science. It will be published in the February issue of the journal Cell.

NATO scientists study the role of women in combat units. A new study by the NATO’s Science and Technology Organization (STO) found that many NATO and partner countries are integrating women into ground close combat units and the roles open to women are increasing.

Zoe Donaldson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology & Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder. Fascinated by the central role of love in art, literature, and everyday life, Zoe Donaldson decided to investigate the neuroscience of this powerful emotion. In 2016, she realized that she was in the ideal position to take advantage of newly emerging optical techniques to investigate brain function, and started applying these methods to voles.

Pandemic hit academic mothers especially hard, new data confirm. New survey on 20,000 scientists shows that mothers suffered a 33% larger drop in research hours compared with fathers during pandemic. Mothers also spent more time on child care and housework than fathers. 

22 pioneering women in science history you really should know about: We’ve all heard of Ada Lovelace, Rosalind Franklin and Marie Curie, but there are many more famous women in STEM that deserve your attention. Katherine Johnson was a mathematician who worked on NASA’s early space missions and was portrayed by Taraji P Henson in the film Hidden Figures. She was one of the “computers” who solved equations by hand during NASA’s early years. Grace Hopper was a pioneering computer programmer and one of the first women to achieve a PhD in mathematics.

6 women who are changing chemistry as we know it: Here are the stories of six chemists – three of them Nobel Prize winners – who are performing incredible research in the fields of medicine, biotechnology, space science, forensics, and more.

As more women enter science, it’s time to redefine mentorship: “Mentoring is not just about opening the door,” says Audrey Murrell, a professor of business administration, psychology, and public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. “It’s about making people feel welcome. It’s about developing them, it’s about providing for the whole person.”

Science Not Politics: How Dr. Rochelle Walensky is Saving the CDC. “My CV makes it look easy, but it hasn’t always been. For every paper or grant I have submitted, 80 to 90 percent of them have been rejected, which is why I tell my students they have to love the pursuit of the question,” says the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Women scientists are bearing the brunt of COVID-19′s impacts. As the COVID-19 pandemic reaches almost a year within the United States, it is clear that those who have suffered the most are working mothers, as well as beginning academics, writes Kristen Vogt Veggeberg for Massive Science.

Breaking the science glass ceiling: four African women share what it took. Less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women. In this article, four African women scientists share their experiences in forging STEM careers. Professor Aina Adeogun’s personal principle is: “If there is one reason why a particular concept will work, then pursue that one reason and leave out the 50 reasons why it won’t work.”

Teen founds initiative to bring STEM to young, inner-city girls: 'I want them to see that you can be a woman of color and still go into this field'. “The goal behind every single event I do, whether I have the girls come to me at a big Girls Empowerment STEM Event or whether I go to them in the schools or in the community centers, is to make science fun and accessible for them,” said 17-year-old Jacqueline Means.


Breakthrough Festival: A Celebration Of Women In STEM. From February 15-21, join Science Friday and 500 Women Scientists for a celebration amplifying the voices of women scientists. This is a science learning event series for all ages featuring interactive online activities and conversations highlighting equity and women in STEM. Each day will focus on a video from the Breakthrough series produced by Science Friday and HHMI Tangled Bank Studios.

BIG Discussions about CRISPR: A Black History Month Conversation. Join experts in the field to learn about CRISPR genome editing and celebrate Black excellence in genetics. (February 25, 2021 at 6pm EST)


Apply now for the GMiS STEM Scholarships: The application period for the 2021-22 academic year is open. The deadline is April 30, 2021.Applications are open to any graduating high school senior, undergraduate, or graduate student, from a traditionally underserved or underrepresented group in science, technology, engineering, math or health.



Marianna Limas, Social Media Manager 

Nilda Rivera, Partnership and Events Manager