My favorite women in science

Hi all! This girl is reaching you out from Philadelphia and my adventure as a digital nomad is ending. But traveling doesn’t stop, and I’m going home to Portugal on Tuesday finally. And today it’s a day to celebrate all the awesome women and girls in science and increase the voice of this group that is still gaining traction in some sectors of STEM. I will divide this list in a few different sectors so that you know all about these awesome role models! I will pick 4 women for the list in three different sectors, and the criteria to choose are:

1 – Someone from my field of research

2 – Someone from another field of research

3 – An historical figure

4 – A friend that has already had articles written about her work in media in English

Women – International:

Sally Temple: When I went to ISSCR2017, I was so amazed to see a woman as the head of the main association in stem cell research and talk about what an amazing 10 years had been since the discovery of the method to induce differentiated cells back to a pluripotent (meaning, able to generate all the cell types in an organism) state. Her field of research is neural stem cells, the limited adult stem cells found in the brain that can induce some degree of regeneration of neurons and other cells in the brain. I quite liked her public speaking skills as this is something Id really like to work on.

Dava Newman: The former MIT director of my PhD program is an awesome woman in STEM engaged in the development of the BioSuit, a more sleek suit for space exploration that induces tissue pressurization as opposed to the very voluminous suits used nowadays. During the Obama administration, she was appointed as the No. 2 of NASA. Now she’s back at MIT and I had the chance to see a model of the BioSuit live!

Rosalind Franklin: When I attended the science journalism workshops at MIT this January, one of the presenters spoke how science can be factual, yet dramatic. And he talked about one of the biggest scandals in science. How the photograph Rosalind Franklin took of the DNA structure X-ray was inappropriately used by James Watson and Francis Crick on their Nature paper and how they barely acknowledged Franklin for the feat. Watson and Crick went on to win the Nobel Prize of Medicine in 1962 for the discovery of the double helix DNA structure. While, in particular, Watson, made misogynist comments, Franklin handled the situation very gracefully, acknowledging her laboratory colleagues, yet she retired from the field and moved on to a new lab. Unfortunately she died aged 38 years old due to ovarian cancer. This is an example of how you can have your name in history despite not having the initial deserved acknowledgement.

Juliana Miranda Mitkiewicz: My awesome Brazilian friend could be considered a Portuguese almost since she is from my PhD program, but in the Energy track. I interviewed her recently (stay tuned for the interview!) and I’m so proud of her accomplishments, even moreso since I met her at MIT last year. She is involved into tackling climate change and gender inequality in developing countries and please click on the link on her name to know more about a recent trip to Nicaragua.

Women – Portugal:

Claudia Lobato da Silva: I could go on and name all the female researchers in my lab back home as women crushes. However, I decided to name Professor Claudia because she taught me a course in stem cell engineering during my 1st year of Masters and I became more invested in regenerative medicine than what I initially thought. Also, she is a very effective communicator with a style in class that instantly draws you in. Her research focus is in adult stem cells, namely hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells, with collaborations with industry and hospitals.

Maria Mota: You might not be aware yet, but I started my research career after graduation working with mathematical models of malaria transmission and immunity. When I was on the malaria field, I had once the chance to hear one of the most prominent researchers in this field, both in Portugal and abroad, speak. Maria Mota has a research lab at the Institute for Molecular Medicine of the University of Lisbon and is focused on how the Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria interact with hosts, mainly during the liver invasion stage. Also, she won the Pessoa Prize (a prize awarded by one of the main media outlets in Portugal for people that distinguished themselves in science, arts or literature) in 2013 and was one of the founders of the Portuguese association for science communication Viver a Ciencia.

Maria Jose Pereira: Why am I considering such a young scientist as a historical figure in Portugal? Because it’s not every year that you have a Portuguese scientist in the famous 30 Under 30 list by Forbes. Maria made the list in 2015, along two other Portuguese: Cristiano Ronaldo (our worldwide famous soccer player) and street artist Vhils. She was enrolled in the same PhD as I did and did her PhD research in both the University of Coimbra and MIT, developing an adhesive to repair heart defects in infants. Now she has a company, Gecko Biomedical, headquartered in Paris.

Beatriz Goncalves: I met Beatriz in the first year of my PhD since we had some classes together. She is a final year PhD student from University of Minho in the Engineering Design track. Her awesome project relates to the development of a new device for stimulation of targeted neurons using light, with applications on the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. We were both at MIT at the same time and click on her interview to know a bit more about the experience and you’ll also see why she is such a role model.

Social media and blogging:

I made a list a while ago with some social media and bloggers in STEM that I admire in a post about the Benefit ad controversy. While I still admire all of them, I will feature new girls this time to be fair 🙂

Krishana (Beyond the Ivory Tower): I had to vary a little from stem cells, as my research is so interdisciplinary. Krish works in diabetes and this is one of my case studies for health economics and launched the 150 Minutes campaign in November, the Diabetes Awareness Month. In this campaign, she challenged her followers to engage into 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise to prevent diabetes. She will be one of my interviewed scientists this year here for the blog, so stay tuned for her November feature 🙂

Amber (Astronomer Amber): I have tried to increase my knowledge of astronomy in the last weeks. I was so enchanted by visiting the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama and, this week, the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. You might have seen the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy Rocket from SpaceX, Tesla up in the space and all. I am very naive in this field but I learn a lot from the girls in astronomy in Instagram. And Amber is one of the most prominent and an advocate for gender equality and showing how stylish women can be in any field.

Christine (Two Photon): I went on Instagram to ask the community to vote for people that would be groundbreaking, and I got some votes for people who had already been featured and other new ones. Ultimately, my choice came on the administrator of The STEM Squad group and community since I believe this group was revolutionary for the way I see science. Having found this community was great for creating awareness to different female role models and the photo challenges and takeovers are so helpful. Christine is a neuroscientist and also a sciartist, selling STEM inspired zines and pins. If you’re into science, please support her small business or other STEM small businesses.

Sanae (Blue Boots Go): I met Sanae in Boston on the Tweetup for ISSCR2017 that me and Samatha organized and she is a final year PhD student in Boston University in the field of Preventive Medicine. We reconnected after I posted on The STEM Squad about some difficulties I was having on my PhD and we went our for dinner, which was incredibly helpful. Her blogging focus is in self care and wellness, with some fashion as well. I attended her event about the Wellness Tray, a portable system for self care that ended up on the pages of Thoughtfully magazine.

I hope you like the list and feel inspired by the achievements of these women! On the day that this post will be launched, I hope to have already figured out my STEM route in Philly to tell you guys all about it in an upcoming STEM travel guide. I already have ideas in mind for the STEM travel guide for Washington DC, so stay tuned!

See you for my Valentine’s Day post! Thank you all so much for voting on my Instagram polls and helping me out with the post. It’s going to be a very personal one and a fresh perspective on dating, so I hope you’ll resonate with it.


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