RFS Briefings
November 21, 2018

Biologist Stoddard Wins Packard Fellowship for Early-Career Scientist, princeton.edu, October 15, 2018
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation announced that Mary Caswell “Cassie” Stoddard was one of 18 researchers to receive a Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering, targeted to innovative, early-career scientists and engineers. Dr. Stoddard is an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton where she is studying the extraordinary diversity of signals and traits in nature. With a focus on birds, her lab investigates the evolution of animal coloration and morphology, As one of the nation’s largest non-governmental fellowships, $875,000 over five years, it is designed to allow maximum flexibility in how the funding is used. According to the Chair of the Packard Fellowship Advisory Panel, “It is really amazing to see what brilliant researchers can do when given the room to take big risks.” Read more.

Molecule Might Help Protect Against Neurodegeneration, Mouse Study Suggests, genengnews.com, October 16, 2018
A team of scientists from the Gladstone Institutes reported the development of an antibody that blocks the inflammatory and oxidative activity of fibrin which contributes to neurodegeneration in the brain, without compromising the protein’s clotting function. The research, published in Nature Immunology, was led by Katerina Akassogkou, PhD, who is also a professor in the department of neurology at University of California-San Francisco. According to Dr. Akassogkou, the antibody could one day help protect against neurodegeneration associated with multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, and might also benefit other organs damaged by inflammation. Read more.
University Report Makes Recommendations to Address Gender, Race Disparities Among Faculty, news.columbia.edu, October 18, 2018
Equity Reporta two-year study by Columbia University, addresses the status of women and underrepresented minority faculty in the Arts and Sciences. Released on October 18, the report highlights three findings: a lack of diversity in the senior leadership of academic departments and centers; insufficient transparency about how important decisions are made; and unclear policies and decision-making processes. The findings also show differences in workload and salary among women and underrepresented minorities, and the persistent problem pf harassment and discrimination. Maya Tolstoy, interim vice president and dean of the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences hopes this report, which includes recommendations, “’will help change the conversation in higher education.’” Read more.
Why Does Japan Make It So Hard For Working Women To Succeed? nytimes.com, October 18, 2018
Though Japan is currently one of the most advanced, affluent, and democratic countries, it fails to recognize the role of women in medicine, business and politics. With one of the fastest-shrinking labor forces in the world due to declining birthrates, the Japanese prime minister was determined to create “’a society where women can shine.’” In 2013, he adopted a plan to enable millions of married and middle-aged women to return to work. The nickname of the plan – “’womenomics’” – originated with Kathy Matsui, the vice chairwoman of Goldman Sachs in Japan. More than one and a half million women entered the labor force since then, but most of the positions are part time and relatively low paid. Though the prime minister’s government has taken many positive actions on behalf of women, including more day care centers, limiting overtime, expanding parental leave for men and women, it is clear that “ingrained attitudes and policies change slowly.” Read more.
Raye Montague, the Navy’s ‘Hidden Figure’ Ship Designer, Dies at 83, nytimes.com, October 18, 2018
Raye Montague was a girl who faced racism and sexism in the segregated South during World War II, but was fascinated by a traveling exhibit of a German submarine that had been captured off the coast of South Carolina which she visited with her grandfather. Years later, not giving up after being led to believe she could never become an engineer, Ms. Montague ultimately became an internationally registered professional engineer and “shattered the glass ceiling” at the Navy when she became the first female program manager of ships, earning the civilian equivalent of the rank of captain. Moreover, using a computer program she developed in the 1970s, she revolutionized the way the Navy designed ships and submarines. Ms. Montague was not recognized nationally until the publication of Hidden Figures in 2016. The Navy honored her as its own “’hidden figure’” in 2017, and she was inducted into the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame this year. Read more.
XPRIZE Foundation Announces New CEO Anousheh Ansari, exprize.org, October 18, 2018
XPRIZE, the world’s leader in designing and operating incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges, named Anousheh Ansari as CEO. Ansari, a serial tech entrepreneur and astronaut, along with her family, sponsored the organization’s first competition, $10 million, that launched a new era for commercial spaceflight. She gained worldwide acclaim when she embarked on an 11-day space expedition – only the fourth private person to do so – accomplishing her childhood dream of becoming the first female private space explorer, first astronaut of Iranian descent, and first Muslim woman in space. She published My Dream of Starsto share her life story as an inspiration for young women around the world. Read more.
The Health Care 50. Fifty People Transforming Health Care in 2018, time.com, October 18, 2018
Despite problems with the American health care system, TIME has chosen to recognize the extraordinary innovation in the field by launching “Health Care 50” to highlight the people – physicians and scientists along with business and political leaders – whose work is transforming health care right now in the following fields:  public health, treatments, cost, and technology. Across categories, 16 women were named. Among them is RFS Board Member Dr. Régine Sitruck-Ware from the Population Council’s Center for Biomedical Research who is revolutionizing how men and women prevent unwanted pregnancies. The honorees also included: epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist Dr. Steffanie Strathdee who led a collaborative effort to develop a phage therapy to save her husband from a drug-resistant infection, stimulating more interest in phage therapy; Linda Gates, whose work this year focused on improving maternal health; and Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of the direct-to-consumer genetics company 23andMe. Read more.
The Genetic Basis of a Social Polymorphism in Halictid Bees, nature.com, October 18, 2018
Sara D. Kocher, PhD, Princeton University, the lead author of a paper recently published in Nature, integrates methods from many different areas of biology to study the evolution of animal behavior. In this paper, she and her colleagues studied one family of bees, the halictid or “’sweat’” bees (Halictidae), who were found to be capable of producing either solitary or eusocial nests even within species. The evolution of eusociality has intrigued biologists, including Darwin for centuries, and according to the authors, “the repeated gains and losses of social behavior in halictid bees provide a powerful lens to study this key evolutionary innovation. The findings suggest that changes in gene regulation may contribute to the evolution of euosociality.  Read more.
Bee Social or Buzz Off. Study Links Genes to Social Behaviors, Including Autism, princeton.edu, October 18, 2018
Sweat bees are helping researchers learn more about the genetic basis for social behavior to better understand the fundamental differences between a social and nonsocial animal.  Princeton scientist, Dr. Sarah Kocher, led research which found that the social lives of sweat bees – “the pesky bees that come buzzing around on a muggy summer day” named for their attraction to perspiration – are linked to patterns of activity in specific genes, including one linked to autism. Until Kocher’s work, relatively few scientists looked at the mechanisms underlying the behavior of sweat bees. According to Kocher, “’Bees have complex behaviors, and with this species of bee, we can directly compare individuals that live in social groups to those that don’t live in social groups.’”  This research was published in NatureRead more.  
Rattled by Setbacks, Celgene Turns to Ex-Merck R&D Star Alise Reicin to Repair Its Damaged Development Rep, endpts.com, October 22, 2108
Alise Recine, who played a significant role in the development campaign for Merck’s Keytruda, is now heading the problematic mid- to late-stage development work at Celgene with responsibility for project leadership and management. Celgen has turned to Reicin to “lead the way out of the wilderness.” Read more.
IN Perspective: Women in The Workplace 2018, leanin.org, October 23, 2018
LeanIN.Org and McKinsey & Company just released its fourth annual study on the state of women in corporate America, Women in the Workplace 2018, based on the participation of 279 companies employing over 13 million people. The findings show that while companies are reportedly highly committed to gender diversity, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels. For example, men hold 62% of manager positions while women hold just 38%. Yet, women are “doing their part” by earning more bachelor’s degrees than men for decades, asking for promotions and negotiating salaries at the same rate as men, and are staying in the workforce at the same rate as men. According to the report, which outlines concrete actions that companies can take to improve gender diversity, companies must treat gender diversity as a business priority, with leaders being held accountable for outcomes. Read more.
NIH Selects First Scholars In Pioneering Program To Enhance Diversity Within In-House Research Program, nih.gov, October 23, 2018
NIH’s pilot-wide Distinguished Scholars Program (DSP), launched in early 2018 and designed to build diversity within the NIH Intramural Research Program, has selected 13 researchers for its inaugural class. According to Dr. Francis Collins, NIH Director, “’Research has shown that diversity of perspectives is vital to the improved quality and number of discoveries in biomedical research.’” Scholars receive four years of research support of up to $2.35 million, with their nominating institute or center continuing to fund their research throughout the tenure track. The DSP program is unique in targeting early stage investigators, which is the point at which we lose underrepresented groups from scientific careers. Read more.
BethAnn McLaughlin: Protecting Neurons and Women in Science, jcb.rupress.org., October 23, 2018
In the era of #MeToo, scientist Dr. McLaughlin has become well known for her advocacy efforts as well as her work on neural stress responses and brain injury. Throughout her graduate and postdoctoral training, she was supported by female mentors who emphasized the importance of “hard work and an unshakable moral compass.”  In her lab at Vanderbilt University, where her team is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie neuronal stress responses, she embraces an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to science while “fostering independence and tenacity in her trainees.”  When asked about the biggest challenge in her career so far, she said: “Tackling how we deal with sexual harassment and assault of women in science.” Read more.
Why Do Mosquitos Choose Us? Lindy McBride is on the Case, princeton.edu, October 23, 2018
With more than 3,000 mosquito species in the world, most of which are opportunistic, Dr. McBride is especially interested in the mosquitoes referred to by scientists as “’disease vectors’” – carriers of diseases that plague humans. McBride won two large grants in October to support her ongoing research, from NIH and the New York Stem Cell Foundation. With this recent funding, the McBride lab will be expanding to include other mammals and birds in their research. The grants will also support a completely new approach being developed by a graduate student: imaging mosquito brains at very high resolutions to determine how a mosquito identifies its next victim. Read more.
Unique Collaboration Utilizing the International Space Station Accelerates Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis Research – New York Stem Cell Foundation, nyscf.org, October 23, 2018
The National Stem Cell Foundation(NSCF), Summit for Stem Cell Foundation, The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute, and Space Tango Today announced a bi-coastal, multidisciplinary research collaboration to study Parkinson’s Disease and primary progressive multiple sclerosis in microgravity. Among the project team are the following female scientists: Dr. Paula Grisanti, Chairman and CEO of NSCF, the organization funding this study; Dr. Jeanne Loring, Senior Science Advisor, Summit for Stem Cell Foundation; Susan L. Solomon, NYSCF CEO; and Dr. Valentina Fossati, NYSCF Senior Investigator. In this groundbreaking study, cells from patients with PD and PPMS will be sent to the International Space Station for the first time, presenting a unique opportunity to observe cell-to-cell interactions in neurodegenerative disease under zero gravity. The full launch to the International Space Station is scheduled for May from Cape Canaveral. Read more.
Boventus Appoints Industry Veteran to Board of Managers: 4 Insights, beckerspine.com, October 25, 2018
Susan M. Stainecker, former vice president and treasurer of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., has joined the Board of Boventus as the company is accelerating the growth of its osteoarthritis business, expanding its surgical orthobiologics, and launching products in new international markets. Read more.
Baker Hoping STEM Week Will Become Annual Thing, sentinelandenterprise.com, October 26, 2018
The STEM Advisory Council, part of the administration of the Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker, is co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Karen Polito, Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals President and CEO Jeffrey Leiden.  Spotlighting the State’s inaugural STEM Week, the Council co-chairs, along with the Governor, announced a $4.4 million grant from NSF to fund scholarships for low -income and under-represented minority students who are in associate’s and master’s degree programs in biotechnology. Read more.
When Women Graduate and Become Leaders in Science, einpresswire.com, October 26, 2018
Recognizing that the stories of countless young women who have assumed leadership roles in science need to be told, despite the unfortunate rise and fall of Theranos, this article highlights the accomplishments of Kristen Dellinger, PhD. As a member of the Kepley Biosystems team, she has most recently been awarded a Phase I NSF grant to develop a device to aid in collecting horseshoe crab blood, a requisite for biomedical industry sterility testing. Read more.
CAREER PATH – Jobs, Career Advice and More, science mag.org, October 2018
The journal Science published by AAAS offers a range of information on science careers, including job postings and job searches by keyword, links to key resources (such as outreach events and workshops), career tools (such as the 2018 Career Handbook), and much more.  Read more.
Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders in Life Sciences, www.mckinsey.com, October 2018
The life sciences are experiencing a changing landscape contributing to more competition as a result of demographic shifts, increased cost pressures, enhanced digitalization, emerging scientific breakthroughs, and powerful new competitors. According to the authors of a new report by McKinsey, successful life-science organizations of the future will likely be: “smaller; more specialized, automated, digital, and agile in their operations; more sophisticated in their commercial approaches; and more integrated with providers, partners, and consumers.” Based on their experience and recent research about leadership qualities of high performing teams, the authors identified 5 distinctive “muscles” that will define next generation leaders: an adaptive mind-set; 3-D savviness (referring to data, design, and digital); partnership skills; agile ways of working; a balanced field of vison. Read more.
Can We Talk? Difficult Conversations with Underrepresented People of Color: Sense of Belonging and Obstacles to STEM Fields, web.uri.edu, October 2018
Journalism professor, Kendall Moore at the University of Rhode Island, and her students have created a film examining various barriers that limit the inclusion and participation of underrepresented people of color in STEM fields, including structural, cultural, psychological, and institutional. To inquire about screening this film at your institution or organization, please contact Professor Moore at [email protected]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.