Science Superwomen

Hi everyone!

11th February is the international day of women and girls in science.  For this day, I wanted to share with you 15 women of Science that you should know about. All these women have contributed to science in amazing ways- from breaking down barriers in the sciences, to making outstanding discoveries in their fields. These women have, and will continue to inspire women to pursue careers in Science no matter their backgrounds.

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow:

“We must believe in ourselves as one else will believe in us, we must match our expectations with the competence, courage and determination to succeed.”

Source: wikimedia

Rossalyn was an american medical physicist who co-developed the radio-immunoassay technique, for which she won a Noble prize in 1977. This technique uses radioactive isotopes to measure concentrations of substances in the human body, revolutionising endocrinology, and has been instrumental in the screening of diseases. Yalow pursued a doctoral degree at the University of Illinois where she was the only woman in a department of 400, and the first woman since 1917. After graduating with her PhD, Yalow joined the Bronx veterans administration medical centre, where she collaborated with Solomon Berson to develop the radio-immuno assay technique.

Chien-Shiung Wu

“There is only one thing worse than coming home from the lab to a sink full of dishes, and that is not going to the lab at all!”

Chien-Shiung Wu
Source: wikimedia

Chien-Shiung Wu is a Chinese-American experimental physicist, remembered as the “first lady of physics” for her contribution to the Manhattan project during world war 2.

As part of the Manhattan project she helped to develop the process for separating uranium metal into uranium 235 and uranium 238 isotopes.

In 1956 Chien-Shiung Wi conducted the so-called “Wu experiment” which contradicted the hypothetical law of conservation of parity- surprising the whole physics community! This discovery led to her colleagues Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen-Ning Yang winning the 1957 Nobel prize in Physics- but Wu herself did not get any award until 1978 when she was awarded the inaugural Wolf prize in physics.

Margaret Oakley Dayhoff

Source: Credit: Ruth E. Dayhoff, M.D. 

Dayhoff created the first public comprehensive, and fully computerised database of protein sequences “The Atlas of Protein Sequence and Structure in 1954”. Dayhoff also created the single letter amino acid abbreviation which significantly reduced data file size, and by using mathematical matrices to examine protein similarities revolutionised the field of evolutionary classifications.

She was also the first woman to hold office in the Biophysical Society and the first person to serve as both secretary and president.

Anne Mclaren


Anne made many fundamental advances in genetics, with her work helping human in vitro fertilisation. She also played a hugely important role in the discussions surrounding the ethical issues of IVF.

McLaren focused on Animal genetics covering a wide range of topics related to fertility, development and epigenetics. Over her lifetime McLaren received many awards for her scientific contributions, and held several notable positions including Foreign secretary of the royal society of which she was the first female officer in the society’s history.

Up until the car crash which took her life, Anne was active in the lab despite her age of 80 years. After her death tributes flooded in from scientists from around the world and it is clear from them that she was a superwoman in the world of science.

Sangeeta N.Bhatia


Sangeeta is an Indian American Biological Engineer investigating the applications of micro and nano-technology for tissue repair and regeneration. Her research is focused on combining engineering, medicine and biology in order to develop ways to understand, diagnose and treat human diseases.

“For the Liver, what’s so interesting is that there’s no stem cell in the liver. So the normal liver can actually regenerate. It’s one of the only organs in the human body that can do this, and we’ve known this since the time of Greek mythology.”

Bhatia started her career in Bioengineering at Brown University before completing a masters and PhD at Harvard-MIT division of Health sciences and technology. Bhatia was named a ‘scientist to watch’ by The Scientist in 2006 and Howard Hughes Medical investigator in 2008. More recently she has received the Lemelson-MIT prize and the Heinz medal for groundbreaking inventions and advocacy for women in STEM fields.

She is now a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the John J. and Dorothy Wilson Professor at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).

Watch her recent TEDMED talk here.

Maryam Mirzakhani

Source: Wikimedia

Maryam was an Iranian mathematician and a professor of mathematics at Stanford University.  She specialised theoretical mathematic,  focusing on geometric and dynamic complexities.

“The beauty of mathematics only shows itself to more patient followers.”

In 2014, Maryam was honored with the Fields Medal- which is the most prestigious award in Mathematics- and was both the first woman, and the first Iranian to win the prize.

On 14th July 2017 Maryam died of Breast cancer at the age of 40, but is continuing to inspire generations of women to pursue Maths and Science.

Mary-Dell Chilton


Mary-Dell is one of the founders of modern-day plant- biotehcnology and is responsible for the first ever genetically modified plant. Chiltons work on Agrobacterium Tumefacians demonstrated that the genes responsible for disease could be removed from tumefaciens without affecting the ability of the bacteria to insert its DNA into plant cells. From this the first ever genetically modified plant was created. Chilton has since been dubbed the ‘Queen of Agrobacterium”.

Since then her work has led to the development of  many genetically enhanced crops, which are grown by farmers across the globe.

Chilton began working at Syngenta in 1983- and in honor of the many achievements she has made through her career, Syngenta created the Mary-Dell Chilton Center in 2002.  She has been awarded countless awards- including being inaugurated into the 2015 National Inventors all of fame and receiving the 2013 World Food prize award which is an international award recognising the achievement of individuals who have advanced human development by improving quality, quantity or availability of food.

“Our work, which began as curiosity-driven, fundamental research, now finds worldwide application in agriculture with great promise of benefitting all mankind. Nothing could be more gratifying than that.”

Today she is a distinguished science fellow at Syngenta, and continues her work on gene targeting.

Huda Akil


Huda is a neuroscientist whose pioneering work has contributed to the understanding of the neurobiology of Emotions including pain, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

Huda grew up in Damascas, Syria, but moved to America to pursue her dream of becoming a scientist. Now she is a world-famous Neuroscientist and author of over 500 original scientific papers.

Akil and her colleagues provided the first physiological evidence for a role of endorphins in the Brain. Throughout her career she has studied a range of research areas including opiate receptors, structure function analyses, behavioural studies, and  the neurobiology of severe psychiatric disorder.

Akil has a whole range of awards to her name, and has been honored with membership to several societies (there are too many to list here!). In addition Akil is currently the co-chair for the neuroscience steering committee at the Foundation for the National Institute of Health. She is currently a research professor and codirector of the Molecular and Behavioural Neuroscience institute in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan.

Find out more about Huda in this interview:

Rachel Carson

Source: wikimedia

Rachel was an American Marine Biologist and conservationist most well known for her book “Silent Spring” published in 1962.

Silent springs talked about the detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment and accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation.

“Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds.”

Her book however caused widespread criticism from companies, with many trying to discredit her name.  She spent her last years defending the truths that she had written about. In 1963 a TV special was broadcasted many companies were unhappy with this, and began pulling their ads from the show. Despite this, 15 million viewers tuned in. Later,  President John F Kennedy’s Science Advisory committee report validated Carson’s research finally making pesticides a public issue.

This in turn spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, and led to a ban on DDT usage in agriculture.

Silent Spring has been credited with advancing the global environmental movement and the formation of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2006, Silent spring was named one of the 25 greatest science books of all time by the editors of Discover Magazine.

Marie Maynard Daly

“Courage is like — it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”


Marie was the first African-American women in the United States to earn a PhD in chemistry.

Marie’s parents inspired her passion for science, and encouraged her to continue on with education despite college study being seen as impossible to many African-Americans at the time.  But Marie defied the odds, enrolling in Queens College, New York where she majored in Chemistry.

Marie went on to complete a Master’s degree, and in 1944 enrolled at Columbia university as a doctoral student graduating in 1947 as the first African American woman in the United States to be awarded a PhD in Chemistry.

Not only did she contribute to our understanding of the composition and metabolism of components in the cell nucleus she also developed programs specifically to increase the number of minorities in medical schools and graduate science programmes starting a scholarship for minority students who want to study science at Queen’s college.

Sophie Germain

Source: Wikimedia

In Paris in 1794 the Ecole Polytechnique- an academy of excellence for scientists and mathematicians, opened however only Men could attend. Sophie didn’t let this get in her way though! She got hold of lecture notes from a former student M le Blanc, and took his identity. She was only outed when her teacher demanded a face to face meeting.

As M le Blanc, Sophie corresponded with the mathematician Carl Gauss. During this correspondence Sophie made a profoundly important contribution to one of math’s then unsolved problems: Fermats Last Theorem.



Treena Livingston Arinzeh


Treena is an American biomedical engineer and professor who has earned international recognition from her work on adult stem cell therapy.

She started her path to science in the kitchen with her mother- creating imaginary experiments.  She has now gone onto bigger things earning a B.S. in mechanical engineering, a M.S.E in biochemical engineering, and a PhD in biomedical engineering.

Since starting out on her science career, Treena has already made several major breakthroughs within the area of stem cells that calcium phosphate scaffolds can act as a framework for growing stem cells, and that adult stem cells taken from one person can be implanted into another without being rejected. In 2004 Arinzeh was awarded the presidential Early career award for Scientists and Engineers by President Bush.

Treena now worlds as an Associate professor of Biomedical Engineering at New Jersey institute of Technology. She also contributes to increasing the number of minority students in biomedical engineering inviting up to 50 teens from under-represented groups to her lab each summer as part of the Project Seeds program.

Flossie Wong-Staal

Source: Wikimedia

Born Yee Ching-Wong, Flossie Wong-Staal is a chinese-American Virologist and Molecular biologist. Flossie was the first scientist to clone HIV and determine its function, which was a major step in proving HIV is the cause of AIDS.

“It adds to the joy of discovery to know that your work may make a difference in People’s lives.”

Flossie began her research into retro viruses in the 70s, identifying HIV as the cause of AIDs in 1983 whilst at the National Cancer institute.

Through cloning HIV, and developing a complete genetic map of the virus, it was made possible for HIV tests to be developed and implemented throughout the world.

While conducting her work at the University of California, San Diego, Wong-Staal co-founded a biopharmaceutical company called Immusol, which she joined fully in 2003 to focus work on hepatitis C therapeutics.

Adriana Ocampo

Source: Wikimedia

Adriana was born in Columbia, and raised partially in Argentina before moving to the States when she was 15. Fascinated by Space from a young age, Adriana earned a Master of science in Planterary Geology from California State University before pursuing a PhD from the University of Amsterdam.

“Space exploration was my passion from a very young age, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I would dream and design space colonies while sitting atop the roof of my family’s home in Argentina.”

Adriana now works for NASA as a program Executive, and has played instrumental roles in several space probe missions. One of her most important projects has been on Juno- which she has worked on for more than 10 years.  Juno is a NASA space probe currently orbiting Jupiter- which will be undergoing a scientific investigation of the planet.

In 2016 Adriana was named the National Hispanic Scientist of the year by the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. At a time when Latinas are less likely than other women to go into STEM careers, Adrianna is an amazing inspiration.

Sunita Williams

Source: Wikimedia

Sunita attended the United States Naval Academy where she got her degree in physical science in 1987. By 1993 Sunita had graduated from the US Naval Test pilot school, and quickly started studying at the Florida Institute of Technology for a masters in Engineering Management, alongside working as a test pilot.

“Don’t get bogged down by the notion of limits. There aren’t any.”

In 1998 Sunita was selected for astronaut training, flying her first mission in 2006 on the space shuttle Discovery. Sunita now holds the records for: the most space walks by a woman (7) and the longest amount of time spent on spacewalks (50hrs, 40 mins). She was also the first person to run a marathon in space, participating in the Boston Marathon in 2007 whilst aboard the international space station.

For this post I tried to feature some of inspirational scientists who are not always mentioned but should be. These women are amazing role models for aspiring scientists across the globe. If you love science that is enough to study science.  I hope you enjoyed reading about all these amazing scientists, I loved researching about them!


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