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Celebrating Exemplary Women in Science

Celebrating Exemplary Women in Science
PHOTOGRAPH: The Nobel Prize | Photo shows Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, a French scientist who helped discover HIV and determine that the virus causes AIDS.

The celebration of International Women’s Day in March brings into focus exemplary women in science. To this day, the great discoveries and feats of such female achievers are commemorated. The scientific world likewise commends the noteworthy contributions of determined women today in diverse fields of science.

Names like Nobel Prize-winning physicist Marie Curie, British primatologist Jane Goodall, and English chemist Rosalind Franklin (who made possible the feat of contributing knowledge to the model of DNA in the early 1950s) all ring a ball. Alongside these extraordinary achievers were women who devoted their lives studying and developing techniques that aided many people’s lives.

Some Unsung Heroes

Indeed, for every female scientist whose work has been recognized and celebrated, there are a thousand others who are little known despite their achievements or sadly forgotten. Among the unsung women of science was  Italian neurobiologist Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012), who discovered the nerve growth factor when she moved to the U.S. after the war. The nerve growth factor is crucial to the development and survival of nerve cells.

Celia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979) was the astrophysicist who discovered that the sun is made of hydrogen and helium. In 1956, she notched two firsts: she became the first female professor and the first woman to become the department chair at Harvard.
There was also nuclear physicist Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997, who uncovered how to enrich uranium to fuel nuclear bombs. She conducted a series of experiments to test the law known as “conservation of parity” which held that there was a fundamental symmetry in the behavior of everything in nature, including atomic particles.
In 1957, Wu’s male colleagues who floated the idea were awarded the Nobel Prize, even if it is Wu who was able to prove it experimentally. It was a clear-cut illustration of a female achiever overlooked and forgotten.

Other Little Known Female Achievers

Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, the French scientist who did fundamental work in identifying the human immunodeficiency virus as the cause of AIDS, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, together with her former mentor, Luc Montagnier. Patricia Bath is the American ophthalmologist who invented a device for removing cataracts that fog people’s vision.
Today, there are countless brilliant female researchers in different fields ranging from aeronautics to molecular medicine, to naturopathic medicine, and many others. Some of these female achievers have been funded by organizations like Diabetes UK, for instance, to keep testing therapies to battle debilitating illnesses like Type 1 diabetes.
Sterling examples of these women are Dr. Kathleen Gillespie (who is currently involved in an international collaborative study of why some children develop Type 1 diabetes in the first few years of life while others who have the markers of ongoing islet autoimmunity are not diagnosed until adulthood); and Dr. Agata Juszczak, Diabetes UK Sir George Alberti fellow who is testing new diabetes screening methods for young adults (and closely looking at  the diagnostic rate of a rare form of diabetes called MODY).
With every passing year, women in science from different corners of the world devote much time figuring out things that can be of tremendous help to humankind. Heads of states have lauded the worthwhile undertakings of these women who make an impact on people’s lives and inspire others, not just on International Women’s Day 2017 but beyond.

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