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Category: scientists
  • A Mighty Girl's top picks of children's books about real-life women of science and fictional stories about girls who love science!

    We don't always think about it, but every child is a scientist! From the moment she pushes a spoon off her high chair to see what happens or starts asking, "why?" to everything, she's started on a long and exciting lifetime of discovery. As time goes on, though, kids can be discouraged from this natural interest and come to believe that science is too complicated for kids -- so it's especially important to nurture that spirit of curiosity from a young age! Continue reading Continue reading

  • Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna's development of a groundbreaking method for editing DNA which is widely considered the greatest breakthrough in the biological sciences since DNA was first discovered!

    Emmanuelle Charpentier, left, and Jennifer A. Doudna after receiving the Japan Prize for "outstanding achievements in science and technology" in 2017.

    Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna were awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize for Chemistry this week for their development of a groundbreaking method for editing DNA which is widely considered the greatest breakthrough in the biological sciences since DNA was first discovered! Doudna, an American biochemist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Charpentier, a French microbiologist and the director of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, Germany, discovered the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors, a tool that allows scientists to "snip" the DNA of organisms, allowing for easy and precise genetic modifications. The pair are the first women to jointly win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and represent the sixth and seventh women in history to win the chemistry prize. "This technology has utterly transformed the way we do research in basic science," asserts Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. "I am thrilled to see Crispr-Cas getting the recognition we have all been waiting for, and seeing two women being recognized as Nobel Laureates." Continue reading Continue reading

  • Dr. Andrea Ghez became the fourth woman in history to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for her discovery of a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

    Dr. Andrea Ghez was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics this week for her discovery of a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy! The astrophysicist, who is the Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Professor of Astrophysics at UCLA, shares half of the prize with Reinhard Genzel of UC Berkeley; the other half recognizes Roger Penrose, a professor at the University of Oxford who proved that black holes must be a physical reality. Ghez was delighted to receive the award, particularly because she is only the fourth woman in history to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics. "I'm thrilled to receive the prize and I take very seriously the responsibility associated with being... the fourth woman to win," Ghez said after the announcement. "[And] I think today I feel more passionate about the teaching side of my job than I have ever. Because it's so important to convince the younger generation that their ability to question, and their ability to think, is just crucial to the future of the world." Continue reading Continue reading

  • Dr. Gerty Cori's groundbreaking work cracked the secrets of glucose, paving the way for treatments for diseases like diabetes.

    The groundbreaking scientist Dr. Gerty Cori was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Medicine and the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in a scientific field. She shared the Nobel with her husband and lifelong research partner, Carl. Although their experience and education was identical, it took thirteen years before she was finally promoted to the same rank as him at the university where they worked. Together, the Coris made numerous breakthroughs in medical research, including discoveries that paved the way for understanding and developing treatments for diabetes and other metabolic diseases. Despite the institutionalized sexism she faced throughout her career, Gerty's tremendous scientific mind could not be denied — and her work would change the field of biochemistry forever. Continue reading Continue reading

  • Lillian Kay Petersen of Los Alamos, New Mexico developed a tool to help aid organizations better plan for food shortages by using satellite data to predict crop harvests early in the growing season.

    For 17-year-old Lillian Kay Petersen, the impact of hunger on children has a personal face: "Nine years ago, my family adopted my three younger siblings, all of whom faced food insecurity in their childhoods," she explains. "I have watched my younger siblings struggle with the lifelong effects of malnutrition." Inspired by her siblings' experience, Lillian developed a tool to help aid organizations better plan for food shortages by using satellite data to predict crop harvests early in the growing season. Her tool yielded such impressive results that she was awarded the $250,000 top prize in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the United States' oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. The Mighty Girl from Los Alamos, New Mexico is thrilled by the honor and the potential of her research to help children facing food insecurity around the world so "they don't face malnutrition and lifelong consequences." Continue reading Continue reading

  • Dr. Frances Kelsey resisted intense industry pressure to approve thalidomide; the drug was the cause of severe birth defects in over 10,000 infants in other countries.

    When pharmacologist Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey started working at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960, one of the first files to cross her desk was an approval request for thalidomide. The drug had already been prescribed widely in Europe and other countries as a treatment for morning sickness in pregnant women, but Kelsey wasn't convinced it was safe. Her refusal to approve the drug, despite intense pressure from its manufacturer, likely saved tens of thousands of babies in America from devastating birth defects. "Representatives for the company thought I was crazy because it was such a popular drug in Europe, and they were losing money by my pigheadedness," asserted Kelsey in a later interview. "I held my ground. I just wouldn't approve it." Continue reading Continue reading

  • Among hundreds of men, trailblazing NASA Engineer JoAnn Morgan was the sole woman present in the locked control room.

    A famous photo shows the control room at Kennedy Space Center on the day of the historic Apollo 11 launch packed with hundreds of men in white shirts and skinny black ties — and, among them, a single woman sits at a console. As Apollo 11 began its flight to the moon on July 16, 1969, 28-year-old instrumentation controller JoAnn Hardin Morgan became the first woman ever permitted in the launch firing room, which is locked down in advance of a space flight. Morgan, who was the first female engineer at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, would go on to have a 40-year-long career at NASA. While she encountered challenges along the way, including being "the only woman there for a long time" and spending the first 15 years working "in a building were there wasn't a ladies rest room," Morgan says that "I had such a passion that overrode anything else, the lonely moments, the little bits of negative. They were like a mosquito bite. You just swat it and push on." Continue reading Continue reading

  • Pioneering neuroscientist Brenda Milner, one of the founders of cognitive neuroscience, says that at 102, she's "still nosy."

    If you go to the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, you might catch a glimpse of 102-year-old Dr. Brenda Milner — a pioneering neuroscientist who's still breaking new ground in her 70-year long career as a brain researcher! The eminent British-born scientist revolutionized brain science as a newly minted PhD in the 1950s. Today, she is best known for discovering where memory formation occurs in the brain and is widely recognized as one of the founders of cognitive neuroscience. Her research to better understand the inner workings of the human brain continues today, although she says that people often think she must be emerita because of her advanced age. "Well, not at all," she asserts. "I’m still nosy, you know, curious.” Continue reading Continue reading

  • English paleontologist Mary Anning discovered the first known ichthyosaur skeleton at only 12 years old and went on to make many more discoveries which changed human's understanding of prehistoric life.

    The phrase "she sells seashells by the sea shore" isn't just a tongue twister; many people believe it refers to the trailblazing English paleontologist Mary Anning! When she was only 12 years old, Anning discovered the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton and she spent the rest of her life searching out fossils that helped change humans' understanding of prehistoric life and natural history. Sadly, because she was a woman, she was rarely credited for her critical discoveries, and only in recent years have her wide-ranging contributions received the recognition they deserve. Continue reading Continue reading

  • After 7-year-old Sophia Spencer was bullied for loving bugs, women in entomology around the world rallied to her support; now she's published a picture book about her experience.

    When 7-year-old Sophia Spencer was bullied for her love of bugs, women in entomology around the world rallied to her support. Now, four years later, the 11-year-old Mighty Girl has just published a picture book, The Bug Girl: A True Story, to share her story with other kids who feel different because of their passions. And Sophia hopes they take away one very powerful message from her experience: "You can follow your passion too. You don’t have to give up." Continue reading Continue reading

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