RFS Briefings - May 7, 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:

Pioneering Neuroscientist and Nobel Laureate Paul Greengard Dies at 93,
Rockefeller.edu, April 14, 2019

Neurobiologist Paul Greengard, whose career spanned seven decades, joined the faculty of Rockefeller University in 1983 where he was Vincent Astor Professor and director of the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research. His work, which contributed to major advances in the treatment of a broad range of neurological and psychiatric diseases, was recognized with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000. With this money, he and his wife founded the prestigious Greengard Prize to honor outstanding women in biomedical research, named after the mother he never knew, Pearl Meister Greengard, who died in childbirth. Greengard was a past speaker at an RFS Meeting.

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


Geraldyn M. Cobb, Who Found a Glass Ceiling in Space, Dies at 88, nytimes.com, April 19, 2019

Jerrie Cobb held world records for speed, altitude, and distance as a pilot, and ranked in the top 2 percent of those (mostly men) who completed NASA’s rigorous physical and psychological examinations necessary to be an astronaut. Yet, in 1961, as she was about to become the nation’s first female astronaut, she found that “the door was slammed shut.” In a hearing room on Capitol Hill in 1962, at a time when astronauts were men, she said: “’We women pilots who want to be part of the research and participation in space exploration are not trying to join a battle of the sexes. . . . We see, only, a place in our nation’s space future without discrimination.’” Ms. Cobb turned her energies to flying humanitarian missions in the Amazon jungle, for which she received a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981. In 1998, after she made a last pitch, NASA announced that it was sending Senator John Glen back into space at age 77 to test the effects of weightlessness on the aging human body. Cobb, then 67, said “’I would give my life to fly into space.’” Read more.


Esther Wojcicki’s Secrets for Raising Great Leaders, fortune.com, April 19, 2019

Esther Wojcicki, the longtime educator and 78-year-old matriarch of one of Silicon Valley’s most well-known families, including daughters Susan (CEO of YouTube), Janet (professor of pediatrics at the University of California-San Francisco), and Anne (founder and CEO of 23and Me), has published her secrets to “cultivating effective and ethical leaders” in her new book, How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results. Her formula, referred to as TRICK, stands for trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness. “’The ultimate goal of TRICK is creating self-responsible people in a self-responsible world,’” she said. She believes that her philosophy has important implications for parents as well as teachers and employers. Read more.


I Want What My Male Colleague Has, and That Will Cost a Few Million Dollars, nytimes.com, April 18, 2019

Women at the Salk Institute, as well as those from other elite scientific institutions, say they have faced a culture of “marginalization and hostility.” As a case in point, biochemist Beverly Emerson who had worked at Salk for 31 years as of 2017 had developed an innovative approach to understanding tumor growth and was hopeful about a new funding initiative she was developing with Salk’s president, Elizabeth Blackburn. Yet, in the presence Blackburn and Salk’s chief finance officer and science officers, Watson knew her contract at Salk was destined to end on her upcoming 66th birthday because she didn’t have enough grant money to cover half her salary. At the time, women made up only 16 percent of Salk’s senior faculty and 32 percent of assistant professors despite the fact that the biological sciences were one of the only fields in which women earned more than half the degrees. The article highlights the experiences of female scientists at other institutions, including Nancy Hopkins, RFS Board member. Read more.


National Experts Chart Road Map for AI in Medical Imaging, nibib.nih.gov, April 18, 2019

The journal Radiology published a collaborative report on April 16, 2019 (online) based on the findings of a workshop to explore the future of AI in medical imaging. The workshop underscores the commitment by standard bodies, professional societies, governmental agencies, and private industry to work together to ensure that patients benefit from the innovative imaging technologies made possible by AI. Hosted by NIH in Bethesda, MD, it featured experts in medical imaging and charted a “roadmap” of priorities in the field. Tessa S. Cook, MD, PhD, Penn Medicine, is among the co-authors of the report.  Read more.


Pioneering Neuroscientist and Nobel Laureate Paul Greengard Dies at 93, Rockefeller.edu, April 14, 2019.

Neurobiologist Paul Greengard, whose career spanned seven decades, joined the faculty of Rockefeller University in 1983 where he was Vincent Astor Professor and director of the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research. He died of an apparent heart attack on April 13. Greengard revolutionized the understanding of how cells communicate with each other and contributed to major advances in the treatment of a broad range of neurological and psychiatric diseases, leading the way to the development of entirely new classes of drugs to treat them. His work was recognized with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000. He and his wife, the renowned sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard, used the prize money to establish the prestigious Greengard Prize to honor outstanding women in biomedical research, named after the mother he never knew, Pearl Meister Greengard, who died in childbirth. Greengard was a past speaker at an RFS Meeting. Read more.


Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Launches $6.9 Million Effort to Increase Diversity of STEM Students on College Campuses, chanzuckerberg.com, April 9, 1019

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative announced a new partnership with three universities to increase the diversity of students seeking STEM jobs. This unique initiative will bring the Meyerhoff Scholars program that currently supports underrepresented STEM students at the University of Maryland–Baltimore County to the University of California at its San Francisco and Berkeley campuses. The Meyerhoff program is recognized as one of the most effective models in the country to help inspire, recruit, and retain underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students. The model includes outreach to high achieving underrepresented high school students, research experiences, team learning, peer counseling, advising, preparation in the summer prior to matriculation, and engagement with students’ families. Read more.


In Bubbles, She Sees a Mathematical Universe, nytimes.com, April 8, 2019

Mathematician and professor emerita at the University of Texas at Austin, Karen Uhlenbeck was the first woman to be awarded the Abel Prize for math, presented on March 19. She was recognized for her discovery of a phenomenon called “bubbling” among other effervescent results. The Abel Prize cited “’her pioneering achievements in geometric partial differential equations, gauge theory and integral systems, and for the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics.’” Read more.


2019 FNIH Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences Winner Uncovered the Microbiome’s Critical Role in Immune Regulation, fnih.org, April 3, 2019

Yasmine Belkaid, PhD is the seventh winner of the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences for “blazing a trail in understanding the microbiome’s significant role in immune regulation.” She is the Director of the Microbiome Program and Chief of the Metaorganism Immunity Section in the Laboratory of Immune System Biology at NIH Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Recognizing achievements by a promising scientist 52 years old or younger, the prize includes a $100,000 honorarium made possible by a donation to FNIH by philanthropist Anne Lurie, President of the Ann and Robert Lurie Foundation, to be presented on May 22, 2019 in Washington, DC. It is intended to inspire young students to learn and participate in STEM. Ms. Lurie, acknowledging Dr. Belkaid’s advocacy for women in science, said: “. . . we know Dr. Belkaid will serve as an inspiration to many young girls around the world, so they will aspire to be preeminent in their field of science.”  Read more.


2019 Canada Gairdner Awards Recognize World-renowned Scientists for Transformative Contributions to Research that Impact Human Health, newswire.ca, April 2, 2019

Marking the 60th anniversary of the Canada Gairdner Awards, the Gairdner Foundation announced the 2019 Canada Gairdner International Award laureates recognizing some of the most significant biomedical and research discoveries. Among the five winners of is RFS Board member Susan Band Horowitz, PhD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, for “defining novel mechanisms of action and resistance drugs of natural product origin, most significantly Taxol®, and promoting their use for treatment of cancer.” Jean Eaves, PhD, University of British Columbia, is the recipient of the 2019 Canada Gairdner Wrightman Award for “her pioneering work and leadership in the study of hermatopoietic, mammary and cancer stem cells and her dedicated advocacy for early-career investigators and women in science.” Each awardee will participate in outreach programs across Canada to share their passion for science with graduate students, trainees, post-docs, faculty members, and high school students. Read more.


Frances H. Arnold Interview, nobelprize.org, April 2, 2019

Francis H. Arnold, the 2018 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, was awarded the Prize for using the process of evolution to make new and better enzymes toward the goal of a more sustainable future. In an interview from the Nobel Banquet on December 10, 2018, she shares her thoughts on the role of women in science. She acknowledges that progress for women in science is slow but argues that women will play a “huge role” in the future of science and technology because that is where “50% of the best minds are.”
Read more.


BP America Chief: It’s Essential that the EPA Regulate Methane Emissions [Opinion], houstonchronicle.com, March 28, 2019

CERAWeek, the annual global energy conference, was held in Houston on March 11-15, 2019 with dozens of panel discussions attended by a record 6,000 participants. One panel, “Methane Emissions: Getting to Zero,” included the CEO of BP’s global upstream business and the president the Environmental Defense Fund, a leading nonprofit. Susan Dio, Chair/CEO of BP America and author the article, believes that this panel, “one of the most significant” at the conference did not receive the attention it deserves.  Read more.


Catalyst Receives $1 Million Grant from Altria Group to Expand Highly Successful Catalyst on Board™ Program, catalyst.org, March 28, 2019

Catalyst on Board™ is a sponsorship program that matches exceptional candidates with leading CEOs and board chairs to help advance more women onto corporate boards, which do not currently reflect the diversity of the population. Women hold only 22.5% of all Fortune 500 board seats and women of color, only 4.6%. Since its launch in the U.S. in 2016, the Program has initiated more than 176 board appointments. The grant will be used to engage more CEOs and seasoned directors to serve as sponsors to board-ready women. Of note, Catalyst’s research director Anna Beninger presented a talk, “Disrupt the Default for Women in STEM,” at RFS’ November 2018 Annual Board Meeting at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. Read more.


Young Women’s Conference in STEM Seeks to Challenge the Statistics One Girl at a Time, Princeton.edu, March 28, 2019

The Young Women’s Conference in STEM at Princeton University on March 22, 2019 attracted about 750 7th to 10th grade girls who spent the day learning about computer coding, plasma science, artificial intelligence, and other subjects though more than 40 hands-on activities. The conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, enabled participants to meet female scientists and engineers, and learn about cutting-edge science. Read more


Opinion | What the Failed All-Female Spacewalk Tells Us About Office Temperature, nytimes, March 27, 2019

Just days before the planned first-ever all-female spacewalk, coinciding with Women’s History Month, a major problem emerged. Enough spacesuits to fit the female astronauts were not available. Two women were to step into space to install powerful batteries on the International Space Station’s solar panels. The author of this article, Marisa Porges, who flew jets in the United States navy had this to say: “It’s an important reminder that while we often focus on major systemic issues facing working women – problems like gender-based wage gaps family leave policies, career pipelines for women in underrepresented field – the ‘little things’ really do matter. Things like the lack of adequate lactation rooms in most office buildings, antiquated office dress codes that require women to wear high heels to work and the size of safety gear available for female astronauts.” Read more.


Carol L. Folt to Become USC’s 12th President, usc.edu, March 20, 2019

Carol L. Folt, an internationally recognized biologist, teacher, and academic leader, was appointed by the University of Southern California Board of Trustees as the university’s 12th president, effective July 1. The search committee noted Folt’s expansive academic experience and her primary commitment to students. She was formerly the first woman chancellor of the University of North Carolina. Read more.


Cure SMA Awards $150,000 Grant to Veronica Pessino, PhD, Salk Institute for Biological Sciences | Cure SMA, curesma.org, February 25, 2019

Veronica Pessino, PhD, a post-doctoral researcher at the Salk Institute, is a 2019 recipient of the Audrey Lewis Young Investigator Award. Lewis founded Families of SMA (now Cure SMA) 34 years ago to recognize the importance of attracting new and talented researchers to SMA (spinal muscular atrophy). Cure SMA honors Audrey’s legacy with this award. Dr. Pessino will study how the overexpression of a molecule, miR-218 – a potential novel therapeutic target – may be able to lessen the negative effects of low levels of SMN (survival motor neuron). Read more.


An Economy for All. How Philanthropy Can Unlock Capital for Women Entrepreneurs of Color through Inclusive Investing, aneconomyforall.com, February 2019

People of color and women are severely underrepresented in entrepreneurial activity in the United States, according to a new report conducted with support from JPMorgan Chase & Co. The report argues that philanthropy can play a pivotal role in unlocking capital for underrepresented entrepreneurs. Despite attention to the gender pay gap, racial achievement gaps in education, lack of adequate child care and paid family and medical leave policies, philanthropists, advocates, and policy makers have failed to address disparities in access to capital and the implications for promoting economic equity and business ownership. Read more.