RFS Briefings - April 4, 2019

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

Of note in particular:

Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Science and Technology, nationalacademies.org, March 6, 2019

In a statement before the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. Congress, Marcia K. McNutt, President, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, addressed one of the most important issues facing our nation – “the health of the U.S. innovation enterprise and the implications for our long-term global competitiveness.” She argued for a strong U.S. leadership in science and a diverse STEM pipeline.

Read more. 

See below for more news about women in science

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,

Karla Shepard Rubinger

Executive Director

Rosalind Franklin Society


Exploring Frontiers: Nature’s Blueprint, allenfrontiersgroup.org, 2019

The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group will present a symposium on May 2-3, 2019 featuring the latest insights into the fields of morphogenesis and regeneration chaired by Michael Leven, PhD, leader of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University. Six of the 13 prominent presenters are women. The talks will attempt to answer the question, “’How do physics and genetics lead to living creatures’ growth and form?’”  Read more.


First Impressions in the Classroom: How Do Class Characteristics Affect Student Grades and Majors?, sciencedirect.com, April 2019

This paper is based on the premise that understanding how peers and instructors impact students’ outcomes and choice of major after taking the first class in the field is important for promoting persistence in STEM fields. Data on first-year engineering students at a large, selective engineering school found that gender diversity in the classroom improves all students’ tendency to continue in engineering, and an increase in underrepresented minorities improves grades for minority students. Read more.


A Groundbreaking Mathematician on the Gender Politics of Her Field, newyorker.com, March 28, 2019

Karen Uhlenbeck was the first woman to win the Abel Prize, awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, one of the most prestigious awards in the field. Professor emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin and currently a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Uhlenbeck has done revolutionary work spanning several disciplines, including analysis, geometry, and mathematical physics. An interview in The New Yorker covers how she got into math, women’s struggles in a male-dominated field, and whether mathematicians really have “’aha!’” moments of discovery. Read more.


Soap Bubble Pioneer Wins Abel Prize, nature.com, March 21, 2019

Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck, a US mathematician, is the first woman to win the Abel Prize, one of mathematics’ most prestigious awards. Recognized for her wide-ranging work in analysis, geometry and mathematical physics, she is most proud of her discovery of a phenomenon called bubbling, a mathematical theory of how soap films arrange themselves into shapes that minimize their energy. In a 1996 essay, Uhlenbeck wrote “’I liked doing what I wasn’t supposed to do, it was a sort of legitimate rebellion,’” referring to the belief that women were not supposed to do math. Read more.


Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology 2019, eppendorf.com, March 21, 2019

The international Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology has been awarded since 2002 to a scientist younger than 35 years for the most outstanding neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology. The application deadline for the 2019 prize is June 15, 2019. Read more.


No Room to “Lean In”: A Qualitative Study on Gendered Barriers to Promotion and Leadership, liebertpub.com, March 15, 2019

A study of the reasons for the persistent gender gap in professorship and leadership roles in academic medicine found differences between males and females. Women’s barriers revolved primarily around external obstacles namely, “I can’t do any more,” while men’s barriers revolved around internal obstacles namely, “leaders are impeding my progress.” Read more.


Barbara Low, Whose Research Identified the Shape of Penicillin, Dies at 98, nytimes.com, March 13, 2019

Barbara Low, who taught biochemistry and biophysics at the Irving Medical Center of Columbia University for nearly 60 years, died on January 10. She was among a core group of female scientists in the 1940s who “unleashed a bonanza of lifesaving antibiotics,” according to her obituary. Read more.


NIH Adds Eight Lasker Clinical Research Scholars, [email protected], March 12, 2019

Eight “exceptional” early stage scientists have been selected by NIH as Lasker Clinical Research Scholars, which is part of a joint initiative with the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. Lasker scholars will have the opportunity to carry out independent clinical research for five to seven years at NIH. Four women are among the scholars: Catherine Cukras, MD, PhD, National Eye Institute; Sonja Sholz, MD, PhD, National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Nida Sen, MD, National Eye Institute; and Jing Wu, MD, PhD, National Cancer Institute. Read more


In a First, U.S. Private Sector Employs Nearly as Many Ph.D.s as Schools Do, sciencemag.org, March 12, 2019

The job market for U.S. science and engineering Ph.D.s is about to pass a long-awaited milestone. While educational institutions have been the largest employer of Ph.D.s for decades, private sector employment (42%) is now consistent with educational institutions (43%), according to a recent survey of doctorate recipients. The trend is especially notable in the life and health sciences, the field that awards the most Ph.D.s.  Read more.


Trump Calls for Cutting National Science Foundation Funding by $1 Billion, thehill.com, March 11, 2019

President Trump called for cutting spending at the National Science Foundation, the government’s top funder on nonmedical research, by about $1 billion. NSF provides about one-quarter of all federal research grants in fields such as engineering, mathematics, computer science, and social sciences, and it funds the purchase of large-scale scientific equipment. Read more.


Lost in Space: Women Scientists in the Workforce,womensenews.org, March 10, 2019

Kelsey Johnson, a self-described “woman, mother, and astrophysicist,” shares her view about the role of women scientists in the workplace. Citing evidence that 40% of women with full-time jobs in science leave the work force after having their first child, she questions what “skill sets, talents, and ways of thinking” are also being lost. For example, she refers to the 10 most important parenting skills sets identified by Robert Epstein in a study published in Scientific American which, when adapted for a professional setting, are also important in science. Read more.


Can you Tell Me a Little About Yourself?: Hiring Biases on College Campuses, law.com, March 7, 2019

This commentary presents evidence that implicit bias impacts age, race, and gender discrimination in college with regard to both faculty and student recruiting processes.  Read more.


Cern Cuts Ties with ‘Sexist’ Scientist Allesandro Strumia, bbc.com, March 7, 2019

Cern, the European particle physics research centre, has cut ties with Professor Strumia who said that women were less able at physics than men and has since stood by his remarks. Last September, at a Cern workshop, Strumia stated that “’physics was invented and built by men, it’s not by invitation.’” Read more.


Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Science and Technology, nationalacademies.org, March 6, 2019

In a statement before the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, U.S. Congress, Marcia K. McNutt, President, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, addressed one of the most important issues facing our nation – “the health of the U.S. innovation enterprise and the implications for our long-term global competitiveness.” She argued for a strong U.S. leadership in science and a diverse STEM pipeline.

Read more.


Meenakshi Wadhwa on Her Career, Women in Science and Spending Four Months in a Wheelchair, wingsworldquest, March 6, 2019

Winner of the 2003 WINGS WorldQuest Air & Space Award, planetary scientist Meenakshi Wadhwa is interviewed about her career since that time and the changing landscape for women working in the sciences. Wadhwa is now Director of the Center for Meteorite Studies and Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, and has won multiple awards. Yet, she is aware that despite positive changes in the field, there is still “a long ways to go before we can say there is true equity in the sciences – not just for women but for all underrepresented groups.” Read more.


New $25 Million Initiative Aims to Provide Young Women with Contemporary STEM Role Models, forbes.com, March 6, 2019

IF/THEN, a program that aims to inspire young women to enter STEM fields through role models, is made possible by Lydia Hill Philanthropies with its pledge of $25 million to support women in STEM in partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Female role models will be introduced into mainstream culture through media posted on YouTube, cable television, and weekly television series. Read more.


Girls Have Always Been Better at School. Now it Matters More, Bloomberg.com, March 6, 2019

Data on educational attainment confirms that young women are more likely than young men to earn college degrees, with this gap persisting until well into middle age. Historically, girls have been better than boys at school primarily because boys have a much higher incidence of behavioral and disciplinary problems and spend fewer hours on homework. Consequences for politics, the economy, and relationships are apparent. Read more.


Microbiology, Immunology Professor Receives American Physiological Society Research Award, www.news.vcu.edu, March 5, 2019

Huiping Zouh, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, won the 2020 Takeda Distinguished Research Award from the American Physiological Society recognizing an outstanding investigator for contributions to research in gastrointestinal and liver physiology. She is also acknowledged by her colleagues for excellence in mentoring students and fellows, making her an excellent role model for women in science. Read more.


The Brain Prize 2019: French Neuroscientists Honoured for Outstanding Research into Small Vessel Strokes in the Brain, lundbeckfonden.com, March 5, 2019

Four French neuroscientists will receive the world’s most valuable prize for brain research, the Lundbeck Foundation Brain Prize worth 1 million euros, on May 9, 2019 in Denmark. The winners, including three women, are being honored for outstanding research into small vessel stokes in the brain. Read more.


Donald Trump’s Phony America, nytimes.com, March 2, 2019

Frank Bruni, opinion columnist for The New York Times, underscores the “epic sham” of the biotech start-up Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes its “delusional creator” in his commentary on the Trump presidency. Read more.


Caltech Announces the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award Winners, www.caltech.edu, March 1, 2019

Two female scientists were among the five winners of the Caltech award, the highest honor recognized by the Institute. The female awardees are: Emily A. Carter, PhD, Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Princeton University for her visionary leadership in sustainable energy among other accomplishments, and Anneila I. Sargent, PhD, for her contributions to understanding how stars and planetary systems form and evolve. Read more.


When women Control the Money, Female Founders Get Funded, nytimes.org, March 1, 2019

The Wing, a women-only co-working club, held a women-only pitch night for 275 entrepreneurs where ten start-ups presented their business propositions to potential investors. The gathering called Wingable was named for the club and Able Partners, a New York venture capital firm that had already invested into each of the ten companies. This platform was designed to address the difficulty female entrepreneurs face when trying to raise money from men. Read more.


The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute, thecrimson.com, February 28, 2019

The Broad Institute, a joint venture between Harvard, MIT, and the five Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals, seeks to understand the links between genetics and disease. Its extensive resources include massive biological datasets that are shared free online worldwide. Only 15 years old, the Institute has 4,300 members who have published thousands of high-impact scientific papers. The CRISPR gene editing tool, one of Broads many projects, is expected to win the Nobel Prize. Read more.


Chevron Corporation Partners with Catalyst to Help More Men Become Champions of Gender Equity, catalyst.org, February 26, 2019

Catalyst, a global nonprofit working to help build workplaces for women, received a $5 million grant from the Chevron Corporation to support Catalyst’s breakthrough MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) Program. MARC is focused on engaging and empowering male executives and leaders to create a more gender inclusive workplace, which Chevron believes can help other companies around the world. Catalyst’s research director spoke at the November 2018 RFS Board meeting, and her video is available on the RFS website. Read more.


AT MSU, Women Get More Degrees than Men, but Men Still Occupy Highest-Ranking Faculty Positions, the-standard.org, February 25, 2019

According to the annual diversity report released by Missouri State University for the 2017-18 fiscal year, more women complete graduate degrees and the current faculty is relatively comparable (50.1% men to 49.9%women), yet men hold the majority of professor and associate professor positions while women make up the majority of assistant professor and full-time instructor positions. Read more.


Rudy Professors Named in Physics and Political Science, polisci.indiana.edu, February 25, 2019

Chen-Yu Liu, a professor of nuclear physics, was recently named a James H. Rudy Professor at Indiana University, awarded to IU faculty members who are viewed by peers as superior in their fields of study. Her research focused on the decay rate of neutrons, providing new insights into the composition of the universe immediately after the Big Bang. Read more.


Meeting the Neuroscientist Shattering the Myth of the Gendered Brain, the guardian.com, February 24, 2019

Cognitive neuroscientist Gina Rippon, PhD argues that we must eliminate the “’pernicious’” sex differences myth, that is, the idea that there is such a thing as a male brain and female brain. She believes that there are no significant differences based on sex alone, despite the contrary opinions of her detractors. Explaining aptitudes, preferences and personalities based on gender can be harmful according to Rippon

“’because it’s used as a hook to say, well, there’s no point in girls doing science because they haven’t got a science brain, or boys shouldn’t be emotional or should want to lead.’” Rippon’s new book, The Gendered Brain, addresses what she believes to be a myth. Read more.


It’s 2019. Women Are Still Less Likely to be Identified by Their Own Accomplishments, huffpost.com, February 20, 2019

Research shows that descriptions of women are less likely to include their careers, which contributes to how they are remembered. Such devaluations are common among female celebrities as well as women in science. As a case in point, a study in the Journal of Women’s Health found that male introducers are less likely to introduce a female speaker as a doctor than they do for male speakers. In contrast, women used professional titles most of the time when introducing both male and female speakers. The Journal is published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., with Mary Ann Liebert the founder and executive vice president of RFS. Read more.


Sandra Wong Named President-Elect of Society of University Surgeons, geiselmed.dartmouth.edu, February 13, 2019

Sandra L. Wong, MD, MS, the William N. and Bessie Allyn Professor in Surgery at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, has been named the president-elect of the Society of University Surgeons for one year, and will assume her term as president from 2020-2021. A surgical oncologist, Wong is among the most widely recognized health services researchers in the field of academic medicine. Read more.


The Lancet: Advancing Women in Science, Medicine, and Global Health, thelancet.com, February 9, 2019

The Lancet published a theme issue in response to the “pervasive and inexcusable gender inequality underpinned by bias and sexism,” as stated in the editorial “Feminism is for everybody,” with research and health care no exception. The issue, the result of a call for papers, led to over 300 submissions from more than 40 countries. The conclusion of this body of work is that “to achieve meaningful change, actions must be directed at transforming the systems that women work within – making approaches informed by feminist analyses essential.” Of note, the issue includes an article on “Advancing women in STEM: institutional transformation. Read more.


Crick PhD Student in Forbes ’30 Under 30’ List, crick.ac.uk, February 5, 2019

Anna Perdrix Rosell, a third year PhD student, was named on the Forbes ’30 Under 30list for European science and healthcare for co-founding a biotech start-up, Sixfold Bioscience, which aims to improve the delivery of drugs to cancer patients. The company is developing customizable RNA nanoparticles to safely and effectively deliver a variety of therapeutic and diagnostic molecules to tumors without damaging healthy cells, contributing to fewer side effects and greater effectiveness. Read more.