Ada Lovelace Day aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire. We asked staff from across Nature Research who has inspired them.
This is the first of two blogs we’re posting today to mark this milestone. You can read more about Ada Lovelace’s legacy here.
Abigail Klopper, Senior Editor, Nature Physics
Ewa Paluch is the sort of scientist I would have liked to have been. Her work on cell shape changes has led to a deeper understanding of how intracellular mechanics impacts cell migration and division.
But more than the work she does, I admire the way that she does it. Her lab is a healthy blend of biologists, chemists, physicists and computer scientists — and what she lacks in house she happily seeks through collaboration.
Ewa actually trained as a physicist, so she understands that physiology can’t be decoupled from physics. But her immersive approach means that she’s also sensitive to the questions that her fellow biologists want answered — something that tends to get lost in translation in interdisciplinary research. She subscribes to a new school of biophysics that capitalises on quantitative techniques and theory, and blurs the boundary between disciplines.
Sir Philip Campbell, Editor in Chief, Nature
For several years, we at Nature Research have run annual awards for outstanding scientific mentoring – two prizes per year, for lifetime achievement and for mid-career achievement. The nominations have been inspiring – there are people out there who are not only exceptional researchers but also exceptional sources of nurturing and inspiration for subsequent generations.
To celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, I want to highlight the past winners who are women. They inspire me but, above all, they have evidently provided great critically-minded guidance and inspiration to their graduate students and postdocs, who have themselves gone on to do fine things inside science and beyond.
Happily, this year’s competition has provided yet further female sources of inspiration, with some exceptional female nominees. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal the winners until the announcement in late November.
Erika Pastrana, Team Leader, Nature Communications
Cori Bargmann is an outstanding scientist and an inspirational leader. She has made seminal contributions through her work in the genetic and neural mechanisms that control behavior in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Bargmann and her colleagues have identified genes that affect animals’ responses to specific odors and discovered the circuits responsible for their chemosensory behavior.
Bargmann has received many awards and honors for her work, and more recently, has been one of the key leaders of the advisory committee for the NIH’s BRAIN Initiative. Here she has shown a unique capacity to bring scientist together, to develop a vision and to lead. Last month it was announced that Bargmann had been appointed the incoming president of science at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).
I have met Cori several times, and seen her in discussions that set the framework of the BRAIN Initiative. I believe she is an inspiration for women – and for all scientists around the world.
Liesbet Lieben — Senior Editor, Nature Reviews Disease Primers
By combining their strengths in microbiology and structural biology, they both have had an instrumental role in the discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 system — a tool that can be used to change genetic material (DNA) with extreme precision and speed.
I’ve seen first-hand how the CRISPR-Cas9 system has transformed the way we do scientific experiments in the lab, and I can’t wait to see how it will revolutionise medicine.
Although there are still hurdles to overcome, this gene-editing tool shows great promise to cure diseases caused by mutations in DNA, such as cystic fibrosis.
Elisa De Ranieri – Head of Editorial Services, Nature branded journals
Dame Athene Donald springs to mind whenever someone mentions women in science. Throughout my studies she has inspired me and many others by being a champion of equality and diversity, in an area (physics) that is traditionally male-dominated.
Athene’s research bridges physics, biology and medicine. She and her eclectic team apply a range of concepts and techniques of soft matter physics to understand biological materials. Her career achievements stand out both for her scientific contributions as well as for her involvement in gender issues.
She is a Fellow of the Royal Society and was awarded the L’Oreal UNESCO for Women in Science award for Europe in 2009. Athene was also the Director of the University of Cambridge’s Women in Science, Engineering and Technology Initiative, and the University’s Gender Equality Champion, as well as a member of the European Research Council’s Working Group on Gender Balance.
Jill Adie, Science Communication Product Manager, Researcher Services
When I finally read the dog-eared copy of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin’s biography a friend gave to me – foolishly not until after my PhD – I found myself in awe of her vibrant intellect, drive and resilience.
Her work laid the foundations for my own research. Dorothy studied the structure of biological molecules using a technique called X-ray crystallography, which was in its infancy at that time. She was incredibly passionate about what she did, and is credited with discovering the structures of penicillin, vitamin B12 and insulin. This led to a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964.
Her aptitude and track record in determining 3D structures meant that during her career Dorothy worked alongside and mentored eminent scientists – she had a stellar academic career, but it was hard won. Even with the advent of World War Two, the demands of a busy family life, and the inherent difficulties of working in male-dominated academia, Dorothy continued to work on the subject she loved, and she remained scientifically active into her old age.
Part 2 of this series will be published today (11 Oct) at 17:00 BST / 12:00 EDT.