RFS Briefings
January 4, 2019

Sidra Medicine Hosts its First Women in Science Workshop, thepeninsulaqatar.com, November 12, 2018
The Women in Science Workshop, held during the 2018 Functional Genomic Symposiums, featured esteemed scientists and researchers from the United States, United Kingdom, and Qatar. The goal was to empower and encourage young women, especially in Qatar, who were pursuing careers in science. Panelists shared experiences that inspired them to become scientists and the challenges and barriers they faced. Read more.
‘Enough is Enough’: Science, Too, Has a Problem with Harassment, nytimes.com, November 19, 2018
Dr. France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation, has taken a significant measure to address sexual harassment of female students, staff, and colleagues. Based on stories shared by younger scientists at conferences for geologists and astronomers, as well as her own experience as a graduate student, she has implemented a new sexual harassment policy requiring N.S.F. funded institutions and individuals to directly notify the agency of “any finding related to harassment by the leading scientists working on it,” which may result in the loss of such N.S.F. support. This move has been described as “the most consequential act” taken by any of the nation’s science agencies to hold academic institutions plainly accountable for sexual harassment. With grants distributed to some 40,000 scientists at 2,000 institutions in 2017, the goal is a shift in a scientific culture which will now hold scientists accountable for their personal conduct, “capturing the bittersweet nature of the #MeToo moment for many scientists.” Read more.
Princeton and Microsoft Collaborate to Tackle Fundamental Challenges in Microbiology, princeton.edu, November 29, 2018
Princeton University and Microsoft are working together to tackle fundamental challenges in microbiology. Specifically, Microsoft is helping Princeton to better understand the mechanisms of biofilm formation by providing advanced technology to extend the type of research analysis currently available. Understanding biofilms – the leading cause of microbial infection and antibiotic resistance worldwide, killing as many people as does cancer – could support new strategies to disrupt them. The Microsoft team will be working closely with RFS Board member Bonnie Bassler, “a global pioneer in microbiology,” who is the Squibb Professor in Microbiology and chair of the Department of Microbiology at Princeton and a Howard Hughes Investigator. Princeton’s collaboration with Microsoft is one of the university’s most extensive with industry, spanning computer science, cybersecurity, and now biomedical research.
Read more.
Breakthrough Prize Foundation Accepting Nominations for 2020 Awards, philanthropynewsdigest.org, December 11, 2018
The Breakthrough Prize Foundation is currently accepting nominations for the 2020 Breakthrough Prizes of $3 million each, including one in in Fundamental Physics, up to five in Life Sciences, and one in Mathematics. In addition, up to six New Horizons Prizes of $100,000 each will be awarded to promising early-career researchers in the fields of fundamental physics and mathematics. The Foundation will host a gala awards ceremony to honor the laureates’ achievements and promote popular support for scientific endeavors. The following day, the recipients will participate in a daylong symposium with lectures and discussions. The application deadline is April 1, 2019.
Read more.
Women in Rare Company Accept Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry, nytimes.com, December 11, 2018
For the first time, female scientists won Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics in the same year, awarded at a ceremony on December 10 in Stockholm. Donna Strickland, a professor of physics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, one of only three women to ever win a physics prize (which was shared with two male scientists), was honored for her innovative work on high-intensity laser pulses. Francis H. Arnold, a professor of chemical engineering, bioengineering and biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, only the fifth woman to receive this prize (which was shared with two male colleagues), was honored for her work conducting the directed evolution of enzymes. These awards are significant in light of the criticism in recent years about the lack of female laureates in all categories. Read more.
Looking Up: Women in Arctic Science, thearcticinstitute.org, December 12, 2018
Twila Moon, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, addresses the growing reach and impact of women in Arctic science. Despite significant progress in recent years, the author emphasizes the importance of women and men working individually and collectively to: recognize women’s achievements; change the work culture that has led to the #MeToo movement; promote gender equity and diversity; and
facilitate mentoring. Read more.
Smithsonian Museum of American History Names Woman to Top Post, nytimes.com, December 13, 2018
Anthea M. Hartig, recognized as a public historian, professor, author, and city planner, has been named as the director of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the first woman to hold this position in the Museum’s 54-year history. In her new role, in 2019 and 2020, she will open three exhibitions as part of the Smithsonian Women’s History Initiative, #BecauseofHerStory. Read more.
2018 Kavli Science Journalism Award Winners Named, science.sciencemag.com, December 20, 2018
The science journalism awards, administered since 1945 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and endowed by The Kavli Foundation, honor renowned reporting for a general audience. Open to journalists worldwide, awards cover eight categories, with a Gold Award ($5000) and a Sliver Award ($3500) in each category. Awards will be presented at a February 15 ceremony held at the 2019 AAAS meeting in DC. Female journalists are represented in nearly every category. Read more.
Launch with GS, launchwithgs.com, December 20, 2018
In June 2018, Goldman Sachs announced a $500 million commitment to fund women-led businesses and women investors to address the gender investing gap. Launch with GS is the firm’s first nonprofit initiative “with a gender lens.” Building on its academic research along with insights from its pioneering 10,000 Women philanthropic program, Launch with GS will: commit firm capital; invest client capital; and establish a community of founders, investors, and other business leaders to grow the pipeline of future investment opportunities. Read more.
FASEB’s Excellence in Science Award – Nominations and New Opportunities for 2020, washingtonupdate.faseb.org, December 20, 2020
For 30 years, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has recognized the “lifetime achievement” of women in biological science with the Excellence in Science Award. Beginning with the 2020 award cycle, the program will be expanded to include two new awards, highlighting achievements by early- and mid-careers women investigators. Early career is defined as “within seven years of first independent faculty/research scientist position” and mid-career as “within seven to 15 years of first independent faculty/research science position.” Nominations for the 2020 FASEB Excellence in Science Awards open on January 2, 2019. Women whose career achievements include excellence in research, leadership, and mentorship are encouraged to apply. Applicants must be a current member of at least one FASEB member society. Read more.
Eleanor Maccoby, Pathbreaker on How Boys and Girls Differ, Dies at 101, nytimes.com, December 22, 2018
Eleanor Emmons Maccoby, a renowned psychologist, died on December 11 at the age of 101. Recognized by the American Psychological Association as among the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, Dr. Maccoby was a pioneer in the field of gender studies, most importantly, sex differences and how they develop. She was also the first woman to head the Stanford University psychology department. While teaching there, she noticed that the scientific literature either portrayed women negatively or completely excluded them. Moreover, she found that studies showing “’no difference’” between the sexes were not published because they were not considered valuable.  To address this gap, Dr. Maccoby and a colleague published “The Psychology of Sex Differences” in 1974, a landmark book of over 600 pages that “shook up the field.” It included the first large-scale review of the literature to determine which, if any, of the professed psychological and social differences between boys and girls actually existed. Read more.
Nancy Roman, ‘Mother of the ‘Hubble Telescope, Dies at 93, nytimes.com, December 30, 2018
Dr. Nancy Roman was the first woman in a leadership position at NASA as its chief of astronomy, where she oversaw the early planning for the Hubble Space Telescope. She was instrumental not only in coordinating the efforts of astronomers and engineers who developed the Hubble, but eventually convincing Congress to fund it. The Hubble, placed into orbit from a manned Discovery shuttle, became the first large optical telescope in space. It began orbiting Earth above its atmosphere in April 1990 to capture a clear view of the universe. Remembered as the “’mother of the Hubble,’” Dr. Roman’s lifelong fascination with the cosmos began when she was just 11 years old. She became a “trailblazer for women at a time when science was considered a man’s world, and she became a lifelong advocate for women in science.’” Recruited by NASA in 1959, just a year after it was founded, Dr. Roman recalled in her National Air Space and Museum interview that “The idea of coming in with an absolute clean slate to set up a program that I thought was likely to influence astronomy for 50 years was just a challenge that I couldn’t turn down.’” Read more.
James Watson Won’t Stop Talking About Race, nytimes.com, January 1, 2019
More than decade ago, James Watson – the founder of modern genetics and a 1982 Nobel laureate –  landed in “a kind of professional exile” for his comment that “black people are intrinsically less intelligent than whites.” Moreover, he added that although he wished everyone were equal, “’people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.’” These statement echoed around the world. He was forced to retire from his position as chancellor of the Cold Spring Laboratory on Long Island, though he still has an office there. And, despite a public apology, Dr. Watson, now 90 years old, has been mostly absent from the public eye though his remarks have not been forgotten. Recently offered an opportunity to redeem his reputation, he has chosen instead to reaffirm his position which is captured in a new documentary, “American Masters: Decoding Watson,” broadcast on January 2 on P.B.S. When asked if his views about the relationship between race and intelligence have changed, Dr. Watson said “Not at all.” The difference, he believes, is genetic. In response to questions from The Times, Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, said that he was unaware of any credible research to support Dr. Watson’s “’profoundly unfortunate’” statement. Read more.
‘I really don’t know what happened to Jim’” Friends ask where James Watson’s odious attitudes about race came from,’ statnews.com, January 3, 2019
A documentary on biologist James Watson, which aired on January 2 as part of PBS’ “American Master” series (see above), has fueled protests from scientists and others who believe that his decades of sexist and racist comments should be left to rest. With regard to women in science, in particular, he stated the following in his 2007 memoir: “’Anyone sincerely interested in understanding the imbalance in the representation of men and women in science must reasonably be prepared to at least consider the extent to which nature may figure, even with the clear evidence that nurture is strongly implicated.’” More recently, in 2014, he told the Smithsonian Magazine that “while women are ‘fun’ to have around the lab, they’re ‘probably less effective’ than men.” The article summarized here explores how Watson could still believe that blacks compared with whites, and women compared with men, are inherently inferior. Explanations range from his age (now 90), irascibility, his inflated belief in his own accomplishments, and more. Yet, there was a time when Watson believed differently, as evidenced by his early support of the renowned biologist Nancy Hopkins, an RFS founding board member, during her pursuit of a PhD. According to Hopkins, this was “. . . when almost no men supported women.” In 2005, after 40 years of friendship with Dr. Hopkins, however, he “turned on her” when she chided the claim by Lawrence Summers, then President of Harvard University, that innate, biological factors kept women from reaching the pinnacle of science.  Read more.

The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug: A Memoir, amazon.com, coming out in May 2019
Epidemiologist Dr. Steffanie Strathdee and her husband psychologist Tom Patterson chronicle her work to develop phage therapy to save Patterson from a drug-resistant infection, described as “one of the most dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the world.” As noted above, she was recently name by TIMES as one of the Fifty People Transforming Health Care in 2018. 
Read more.