10 Award-Winning Female Scientists You Should Know About
Even in today’s modern world, women are still hugely underrepresented in STEM subjects and occupations. Science remains a male-dominated field with imbalances prevalent from college student to leadership levels.
Our blog has featured many great female scientist success stories over the years, such as our Lab Heroes award-winners Katarina Ilić, Jaana van Gastel and Dr. Enitome Bafor who continue to achieve amazing things in their respective fields.
In this blog we wanted to highlight some of the incredible women who have been recognised worldwide for their extraordinary achievements in science. Some you will have heard of, some you won't, but all have inspiring stories that deserve to be heard, shared and celebrated!
1. Jennifer Doudna
Award: Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2020)
American biochemist Jennifer Doudna was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2020 along with French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier for their development of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). CRISPR is a technology which can be used to edit genes. It works by the action of a protein called Cas9 which can slice mutated DNA. The CRISPR Cas9 system has the ability to recognise a particular DNA sequence. Cas9 locates the DNA sequence of interest by attaching to an RNA sequence that matches the DNA sequence desired to be edited. After the mutated DNA is cut, the correct version of the gene can be substituted in for the cell to work. This technique can be used in human therapeutics to agricultural applications, and is widely celebrated as having profoundly changed biomedical research.
2. Cynthia Kenyon
Award: King Faisal International Prize in Medicine (2000)
Cynthia Kenyon is an American molecular biologist who discovered that there is a single genetic mutation that can control ageing in worms, known as C. elegans. Kenyon's research revealed that damage in a gene called daf-2 doubled the worm’s lifespan. She is now working to do the same in humans, and her efforts have won her many awards including the Ilse & Helmut Wachter Award for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, and the King Faisal International Prize in Medicine in 2000.
3. Nina Tandon
Award: L’Oréal Women of Worth Award in Science & Innovation (2015)
American biomedical engineer Nina Tandon is the CEO and co-founder of EpiBone, the world’s first company growing living human bones for skeletal reconstruction. Tandon aims to create a process where an entire human organ can be grown. Eventually, Tandon’s work could lead to personalized medicine, to incorporate growing bones from a human's own cells and producing custom drugs and medicines created specifically for an individual. She has won multiple awards for her work, including the L'Oreal Women of Worth Award in Science & Innovation in 2015.
4. Kristen Marhaver
Award: National Geographic Explorer (2019)
Marine biologist Kristen Marhaver’s work has helped threatened coral species to survive, and much of her research looks at finding out how corals reproduce. She was the first person to grow endangered Caribbean pillar coral. Currently she is working on new methods to grow corals in the hope that coral reefs can one day be rebuilt. She was named National Geographic Explorer for 2019.
Award: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2015)
Tu Youyou is a Chinese pharmaceutical chemist and malariologist. Following a breakout of malaria in North Vietnam in 1967, there was a call to China to find a cure for chloroquine-resistant malaria. Youyou studied ancient Chinese medical texts and identified a compound in wormwood that could be used to treat malaria called artemisinin. Youyou’s discovery has saved more than 3 million lives since 2000. In 2015 she became the first Chinese scientist to receive a Nobel Prize in a scientific category.
6. Kiara Nirghin
Award: Winner of the Google Science Fair Award (2016)
Kiara Nirghin is a South African inventor, who at the age of just 16, won the Google Science Fair award with her entry on a new material made from orange and avocado peels that can hold up to 300 times its weight in water. The polymer created can be planted alongside crops acting as small reservoirs of water. Nirhin's invention was able to improve the situation in her country as it faced the worst drought in 30 years. Now aged 20, Nirghin travels the world as an influential speaker, and in 2018 she was nominated for the United Nation’s Young Champions of the Earth award.
7. Segenet Kelemu
Award: L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science Laureate (2014)
Segenet Kelemu is an Ethiopian molecular plant pathologist. She grew up in a poor farming family, and after obtaining a degree in agriculture and working abroad for 25 years, she decided to return to Ethiopia to help poorer farmers grow more food and get out of poverty. She does this by studying microorganisms in plants and researching how the plants respond to changes in the environment. This information helps scientists to understand how to use biotechnology to improve food security. She has received many international accolades for her work, including the L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science Laureate in 2014.
8. Cornelia Bargmann
Award: Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013)
Cornelia 'Cori' Bargmann is an American biochemist and geneticist. Bargmann’s work looks at how genes control behaviour in nematode worms. She has discovered, for example, that changes to a single gene can result in the worm avoiding chemicals it had before been attracted to. Bargmann’s work is providing a deeper understanding of the brain, and she has been widely honoured for her work in neuroscience research, being awarded the Kavli Neuroscience Prize in 2012 and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in 2013.
9. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi
Award: Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (2008)
Françoise Barré-Sinousi is a French virologist who along with her team discovered human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in 1983. Her work resulted in tests and antiretroviral drugs to be made to stop the deaths of those with AIDS. Barré-Sinoussi also travelled around Africa to educate people about AIDS prevention and started centres responsible for testing and treating those with AIDS. She has won many awards for her research, most notably the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2008.
10. May-Britt Moser
Award: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2014)
Norwegian psychologist and neuroscientist May-Britt Moser is a pioneer in brain research and memory. Together with her then-husband Edvard Moser, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014 for the discovery of types of cells important for determining position close to the hippocampus, an area in the brain that is vital for the encoding of space and memory. Moser's research has allowed scientists to gain new knowledge into the cognitive processes and spatial deficits associated with conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.
“Hey! What about…”
Tell us about the ones we’ve missed! Which female scientists have inspired you most in your career? Share in the comments or tweet us at @hello_bio!
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