INSIGHT Into Diversity is proud to recognize women who are making a difference in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) with the 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award. These women work to inspire and encourage the next generation of young people to pursue STEM education and careers via teaching, mentoring, research, and groundbreaking discoveries and innovations. As scientists, researchers, educators, entrepreneurs, and university presidents and deans, they serve as role models to students and professionals alike, emboldening them to follow in their footsteps.
As the executive director and CEO for the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) — the largest multidiscipline organization for women in STEM — Janet Bandows Koster works to increase the number of women in the STEM pipeline by educating lawmakers on the need to create policies to improve dropout rates and by advising institutions on ways to improve recruitment and retention in those fields. Koster also led the development of a series of events for AWIS focused on bringing young people together to encourage entrepreneurship and provide information on how to launch a product and secure funding. An advocate for systemic change, she inspires young women to pursue STEM careers, regardless of barriers.
With extensive experience working in higher education, Juliette B. Bell, PhD, has served as a professor, researcher, and administrator, and since 2012, she has served as president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. She became one of only two African American women to earn a PhD in chemistry in the U.S. in 1987, and she works to inspire young African American students to pursue higher degrees in STEM fields. Bell has trained and mentored both undergraduate and graduate students in her research lab, as well as hundreds of others through individual programs. She worked to secure funding and created the Fayetteville State University Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement Program, which supports mentoring for underrepresented minority students in STEM. In six years, of all the students who participated in the program, nearly one-third went on to pursue a master’s degree, PhD, or PharmD.
Aware of feeling like an “outsider” as an African American female scientist, Joanne Berger-Sweeney, PhD, tries to be a pioneer and pave the way for young people who face similar barriers. As both a professor of neuroscience and the president of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., she creates opportunities for young people to learn about STEM fields on campus. Berger-Sweeney coordinated the daylong Tech Savvy conference in February that featured activities meant to get middle school girls interested in science and technology. In addition, she supported efforts by the college’s female students to create a “Girls Can Do It” program to mentor a local Girl Scout troop and teach them how to build robots. For this work, Girl Scouts of Connecticut recognized Berger-Sweeney as a “Woman in STEM Leader.”
At the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Carlotta A. Berry, PhD, co-founded the Rose Building Undergraduate Diversity (ROSE-BUD) program, which is aimed at encouraging students from underrepresented groups to pursue STEM fields. It has helped increase the diversity of the student body, especially among electrical engineering majors. She also helped organize the Student Projects Advocating Resourceful Knowledge (SPARK) event to bring together high school and college students to work on Rube-Goldberg-themed projects and learn about the design process. In a continued effort to attract more young people to STEM, Berry visits local elementary, middle, and high schools throughout Indiana and Illinois to encourage interest in robotics. For her work developing the ROSE-BUD program and supporting diversity initiatives, she was awarded the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award. She has also written op-ed articles for The New York Times and other national publications addressing issues related to underrepresented groups in STEM, especially women in electrical and computer engineering.
Driven by a desire to increase the visibility of women in toxicology, Virunya Bhat, PhD, works to overcome gender and cultural barriers to attaining equality in STEM. Beyond her role as principal toxicologist with the National Science Foundation International, she is actively involved in STEM outreach — a passion she discovered eight years ago upon visiting preschool classrooms to speak about germs and proper hygiene. As a member of a Society of Toxicology K-12 education subcommittee, she helps coordinate events in four states to inspire future toxicologists; through these events, she has reached hundreds of diverse young people. Bhat also invites local high school students doing outstanding toxicology-related research projects to present their findings at an annual, national toxicology meeting. In 2015, she received a K-12 outreach leadership award for her active involvement in STEM outreach.
As head of the Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy for more than 10 years, Judy L. Bolton, PhD, inspires young people from underrepresented groups to pursue careers in STEM. She frequently meets one-on-one with students to improve their written and verbal communication skills, as well as their research and critical-thinking skills. Because of her attention to the needs of underrepresented groups, she leads one of the most diverse research groups in her department, with nearly half from minority groups, and she has mentored nine underrepresented minority postdoctoral fellows over the last decade. In addition, Bolton has made significant contributions to women’s health. Through her research on the carcinogenic properties of estrogens, she helped uncover the fact that not only can estrogens act in breast cancers to increase proliferation, but hormonal metabolism converts estrogen structurally into a reactive electrophile, capable of interacting with nucleophiles, such as DNA and protein, in the cell. She is also a permanent member and head of the Cancer Etiology Study Section with the National Institutes of Health.
Since becoming dean of the college of engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) — a Hispanic-Serving Institution — JoAnn Browning, PhD, PE, has made the recruitment and retention of women and minorities a key goal for the university. She was the driving force behind the college’s first annual STEMinism conference in fall 2015, which brought hundreds of female middle and high school students from low-income schools to campus, where they were able to interact with female engineering professionals and learn about STEM careers. Browning’s own research focuses on various aspects of engineering, including structural, earthquake, materials, and reinforced concrete design and analysis. She is actively involved in research to improve the durability of concrete bridge decks through studies of corrosion protection systems and low-cracking, high-performance bridge decks. In addition, she is working to improve the design and performance of concrete buildings and bridges subjected to earthquakes. For being a leader in structural engineering and concrete research, she was named the David and Jennifer Spencer Distinguished Chair of the UTSA College of Engineering in 2014.
Marie Chisholm-Burns, PharmD, serves as the first African American and female dean of the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy, overseeing a large minority student body. A researcher on the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program, she worked to better understand patterns associated with the underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM fields. Chisholm-Burns engages with the community to engage and empower these groups and prepare them to study STEM disciplines. In addition to students, she advocates for faculty as well and works to improve female and minority representation. In her previous position at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, she implemented a formal departmental mentoring program for junior faculty, and the percentage of women and minority faculty increased by 200 and 400 percent, respectively, during her time there. For her work, she has received several awards, including the Women of Vision Award from the Commission on the Status of Women and the Peter W. Likins Inclusive Excellence Award from the University of Arizona.
Motivated by a sense of urgency to help students who get “left behind” — specifically those from African American, Hispanic, and low-income communities — Lesa Covington Clarkson, PhD, works to increase their access to STEM education. In one such community in north Minneapolis, she supports, tutors, mentors, and encourages young people to be prepared for future study and opportunities in STEM fields. She created the Prepare2Nspire program to provide math tutoring to urban middle and high school students by an ethnically diverse group of University of Minnesota undergraduate STEM students; the program has supported nearly 400 young people thus far. Clarkson, who was a first-generation college student, is the only African American to earn a PhD in mathematics education from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where she currently works as an associate professor.
In her last position as STEM program specialist with Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, Maranda “Grace” Cleland introduced girls to STEM and encouraged them to pursue careers in those fields. She engaged them with discussions and activities around 3-D printers and robotics, and she oversaw two all-girl, African American robotics teams, which did very well this year at the FIRST Robotics Competition. Cleland also works with the group STEMpower at area schools to provide additional inspiration to girls through mentorship. In addition, she meets with community leaders as well as individuals from underrepresented communities to discuss progress in STEM.
With a focus on exposing young people to the “coolness” of STEM, Karen Cooper, manager of business analysis and testing at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, finds fun ways to relate STEM to things they enjoy — such as Super Soakers and snowboards — through engaging demonstrations. Her passion for introducing African American youth living in urban environments to STEM fields goes back to her undergraduate years at the University of Florida. As the outreach chairwoman of the National Society of Black Engineers, she created a program for local youth to learn about the experience and benefits of working in engineering. She has also taken several young women under her wing as mentees. In her field of software development, Cooper forged new territory by laying out a reliable and comprehensive process definition for conducting user acceptance testing for software development products, leading others in the profession to seek her out.
As the first African American female to graduate with a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Louisiana State University (LSU), Del H. Dugas continues to follow her passion not only in her professional life as the project development business planner with ExxonMobil Refining and Supply, but also in her personal life as a volunteer and mentor. She has been mentoring minority students and young professionals for 30 years, volunteering her time at K-12 schools, and coaching undergraduate engineering students on how to achieve success. Furthermore, she helped expand the ExxonMobil Scholars program at LSU by getting the company to invest more than $750,000 to date in the project, which provides scholarship funds and mentoring to minority students. In 2010, LSU named Dugas one of 10 recipients of the Chancellor’s Sesquicentennial Service Award, which recognizes outstanding LSU alumni.
A scientist turned communicator, Mónica I. Feliú-Mójer, PhD, leverages online technologies to make science available to all. Specifically, her work focuses on empowering Latinos through bilingual science outreach, communication, and education efforts. As editor in chief of Ciencia Puerto Rico — a nonprofit organization that uses social networks to engage Latino scientists in mentoring, outreach, and education — she collaborates with stakeholders to develop and implement initiatives that promote interest in STEM among K-12 and college students. Feliú-Mójer is also the science outreach program manager for the nonprofit iBiology, which produces and distributes free online videos about research and the scientific process, featuring the world’s leading biologists. At the Yale Ciencia Academy, a National Institutes of Health-funded training program, she serves as program coordinator, helping provide U.S. doctoral students with mentoring, networking, and peer support to complement their research training. For her work, she has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the COPUS Paul Shin Memorial Award for her efforts to increase public understanding of science among Hispanic audiences.
Chief Executive Officer of Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus Verna M. Fitzsimmons, PhD, takes a personal approach to engaging students on her campus. In an effort to be visible and available, she provides her personal phone number to those whom she is mentoring and is often seen eating lunch with students in the cafeteria, listening to them and using humor to foster a welcoming environment. In her 24 years in higher education, Fitzsimmons has worked with students in the Upward Bound Program — a U.S. Department of Education initiative that provides opportunities for low-income and first-generation students to succeed in high school and, ultimately, in college — by encouraging them to consider studying engineering. She has also held many national and international leadership roles and presented at national engineering conferences and events.
The associate dean of outreach and diversity and an adjunct professor at Boston University College of Engineering, Gretchen E. Fougere, PhD, has led many efforts to bring STEM education and activities to young people. Specifically, she created the Technology Innovation Scholars Program, for which she leads a team of 55 engineering undergraduates who facilitate technology content interventions in schools nationwide, covering topics such as clean energy and robotics. Since 2011, she has trained nearly 150 engineering undergraduates, known as Inspiration Ambassadors, who go on to teach K-12 students how engineers use quantitative skills to design technological solutions to problems, in turn enhancing these young peoples’ motivation for studying a challenging subject. Fougere also co-founded HANDS, an engineering after-school program for minority and female middle school students to give them insight into STEM careers to inspire them to start preparing now. In the local community, she has created engineering and math challenges for Girl Scouts and elementary schools and mentored a FIRST Robotics Competition team. Furthermore, Fougere is co-principal investigator on Boston University’s STEM Educator-Engineer Program (STEEP), funded by the National Science Foundation, for which she was invited to the White House for an Office of Science and Technology Policy meeting.
Because of her own experience as a person of color pursuing a STEM degree at a historically black college or university (HBCU), Ashalla M. Freeman, PhD, understands the importance of creating supportive environments where underrepresented students are able to thrive. For the last 10 years, she has worked to build the STEM pipeline for these young people through teaching and mentoring. For two years, she taught at an HBCU to encourage and prepare minority students to pursue STEM graduate degrees and professions. In 2009, she transitioned into administration to focus on recruiting and retaining underrepresented students, serving as director of diversity affairs at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine and program coordinator for the National Institutes of Health-funded Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity. At UNC, Freeman is responsible for developing initiatives to recruit and retain minority students in biomedical sciences — providing professional development for these students, creating and promoting diversity education for the campus, and more. She has also designed and offered an educational experience for faculty to help them better support underrepresented students.
Through community engagement and collaboration, Allison Grabert — director of the Southwest Indiana STEM Resource Center at the University of Southern Indiana (USI)— works to provide STEM resources and opportunities to K-12 students in the local community, particularly girls and underrepresented minorities. She has and continues to organize and contribute to many STEM outreach events for teachers, students, parents, and community organizations. Included among these is a Middle School STEM Innovation Camp, the Girls Only (GO) STEM! Summer Residential Camp, the USI FIRST LEGO League Qualifying Tournament, the Indiana State SeaPerch Challenge, and the Tri-State Science and Engineering Fair — the largest science fair in the region. She has also developed and implemented specific outreach strategies to increase the participation of underserved populations in these events. During her time at USI, the SwISTEM Equipment Lending Service was launched, allowing teachers in the region access to classroom sets of high-grade laboratory equipment and other STEM educational supplies completely free of charge. In 2013, she joined a group of STEM professionals from the Naval Surface Warfare Center (Crane Division) to expand the service to an additional seven low-income and rural counties in south-central Indiana, effectively doubling the geographic footprint of the center’s impact on K-12 STEM education in the state. Coupled with this service is access to on-site curriculum and instructional consultation conducted by SwISTEM and USI staff, for which teachers are trained how to properly use available equipment in their classrooms and seamlessly integrate it into their lesson plans.
Sheryl Grace, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Boston University (BU), has worked hard to increase opportunities for both female students and faculty in STEM fields. As the BU faculty adviser for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, she collaborated with NASA Connect to create a middle school outreach activity based on Hurricane Hunters, aircrews that fly into tropical cyclones to gather weather data. She also established a middle school summer program called Flight 101 for the BU UDesign Camp, and for several years, she has orchestrated AME (aerospace and mechanical engineering) Days to bring high school students to BU’s campus. In addition, Grace has led efforts to increase the number of female faculty at BU who can serve as role models for undergraduate STEM students. She formed the BU Women in Science and Engineering organization in 2004; through that and other projects, she has supported women by establishing tenure workshops, networking events for new faculty, and mini-grants for mid-track female STEM faculty.
In her role as dean of the College of Urban Education at Davenport University, Susan Gunn, PhD, works with students from underrepresented groups from high school to medical school, inspiring in them a love of science. In 2012, she hosted a science day that brought more than 250 students from five urban high schools to the college for interactive projects; the next year, the event was expanded to an annual weeklong science summer camp, with hands-on activities including using evidence to “solve” a crime and discussions on what the path to STEM careers entails. Gunn also serves as the president-elect of the Michigan branch of the American Society for Microbiology and on the advisory board of Shiloh Girls, an organization that helps African American middle school girls develop into well-rounded future “world changers” through the cultivation of leadership skills and the building of self-worth.
Understanding the importance of technology in both higher education and day-to-day life, Kourtney W. Hollingsworth, EdS, leads a campaign to get students to use the internet to better their lives. As part of this effort, she has trained more than 2,000 students and parents on how to use the Web for job and career searching and planning, online tutoring, applying for scholarships, and combatting cyberbullying. She also coordinated the donation of laptops to low-income high schools to increase digital literacy and help students achieve college credit via online courses. She works to prepare young people for successful careers through her business Tranzition and a program she created called Delivering Opportunities Exemplifying Leadership, Love, and Service — which has won three state and two national awards, as well as one international award. In addition, as a woman with a visual impairment, she has dedicated herself to helping blind and visually impaired people attain successful careers in STEM.
As a professor of intellectual property law and director of the Intellectual Property Law Center at Drake University Law School, Shontavia Johnson, JD, teaches law students how to help scientists and inventors patent their ideas and inventions. With a bachelor’s degree in biosystems engineering, she is uniquely suited to this role and often emphasizes to students the importance of using patent law to protect their creations. She also encourages young people to get involved in STEM activities by planning and hosting events, volunteering with community groups and STEM-related boards, and mentoring underrepresented students. Through Drake’s Crew Scholars Program, Johnson mentors undergraduate students of color by making sure they receive academic support and leadership training while earning scholarships. She founded her own nonprofit organization, called Each One Teach One Charitable Foundation, through which she provides students interested in STEM careers with mentors and educational opportunities.
Julie Kantor is an entrepreneur committed to building a mentoring culture to elevate women in STEM careers and drive employee engagement. For 20 years, she worked in some of the country’s toughest neighborhoods teaching math and business to young people, using technology and other tools to help them grow their own companies. Through Twomentor, her management consulting firm, she builds on her 24 years in workforce development to develop corporate mentoring strategies. Prior to launching her own business, Kantor was the team leader of Million Women Mentors, a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting a million men and women mentoring girls in STEM; she managed relationships with 64 partners who reached more than 30 million girls. In addition to personally mentoring nearly a dozen people from diverse backgrounds, she has written several books on the topics of entrepreneurship and mentoring for women and youth. The White House recently honored her for her work in youth entrepreneurship education.
Brookshield Laurent, DO, uses her own background — coming from a Haitian immigrant family — to inspire underrepresented students to pursue STEM education and introduce them to all the opportunities it can provide. As a faculty associate with the New York Institute of Technology’s (NYIT) Center for Global Health and vice chair of the Department of Clinical Medicine, she leads field work abroad with NYIT medical students, teaching them about the intersection of medicine, local economies, governmental structures, and historical perspectives. In this role, she has led three trips to Haiti and El Salvador and is about to lead another one in which students will study markers of health vulnerability in the community. In the local community, she speaks with K-12 students in underserved areas about general health issues. In addition, Laurent is vice chair for the Department of Family Medicine at NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, chair of a health advisory board for Peredo Community Hospital in Haiti, fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians’ Leadership Institute, fellow of the Training in Policy Studies program, and spokesperson for the American Osteopathic Association.
Diana Marculescu, PhD, has engaged young people in her research by working with a middle school Lego robotics team — composed mostly of girls — to show the benefits of renewable energy; she helped her students demonstrate how their prototype could be used as a renewable energy source for use during catastrophic events. As a first-generation student and now a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University, she is inspired to help others succeed. In her role as the founding director of the Center for Faculty Success in the College of Engineering, she provides support to all engineering faculty — from recruitment through the entirety of their careers at the university. In just over a year, she developed a new faculty orientation, implicit bias training, and workshops on faculty development. At the student level, Marculescu mentors female and minority students, advising them on research, work-life balance, navigating the postgraduate career path, and more.
Victoria Marron — STEM grant director at Lee College, a two-year school in Baytown, Texas — oversees a variety of initiatives at the college aimed at increasing the number of Hispanic and low-income students studying STEM, as well as helping them transfer to four-year institutions. These programs include the Puente Project, which provides mentoring and tutoring to help Hispanic students reach their goals; the first-ever Weekend College program at the school to make visiting the campus possible for students who may have families and full-time jobs; and an annual STEM camp designed to increase awareness of these fields. In addition, she is planning a large-scale STEM conference for girls in K-12. Marron inspires young people at early ages by speaking at community events, schools, and churches to provide information about the STEM fields.
Kathryn E. Meier, PhD, the associate dean for graduate education at Washington State University (WSU) College of Pharmacy, is committed to the university’s mission to advance opportunity and equity for women and underrepresented minorities in graduate education. As part of this commitment, she oversees the college’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program in pharmaceutical sciences, which provides a 10-week, hands-on research experience for undergraduate and professional students. Under her leadership, WSU’s graduate pharmacy program has expanded dramatically in the last five years; from 2010 to 2015, the number of PhD students increased from nine to 20. Meier is recognized as a leader in research and academia and frequently serves on committees, panels, and review boards. She has received both local and international acclaim for her research on omega-3 fatty acids, and this past year, WSU awarded Meier the College of Pharmacy Graduate Teacher of the Year Award.
As a female immigrant from India, Pinku Mukherjee, PhD, understands the challenges both women and minorities face on the path to success in STEM. In her current position as Belk Distinguished Professor of Cancer Research at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), she mentors students on the road to success as a major adviser for multiple graduate and postdoctoral fellows. She also has a special interest in mentoring and preparing high school students for science competitions. Mukherjee’s groundbreaking research has been transformational for the diagnosis and treatment of breast and pancreatic cancers, and her innovation in this area has produced more than a dozen patents. With her extensive knowledge, she launched her own company — OncoTAb, Inc. — to develop products and therapies for cancer treatment that span the lifecycle of cancer, from diagnosis through treatment and monitoring. Through her research, she has made UNCC a major player in cancer research by securing funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, among other organizations. In addition, Mukherjee serves as a consultant in cancer research for hospitals across the world. For her work, the Society of Asian American Scientists in Cancer Research acknowledged her as one of seven Indian American doctors who have made “outstanding contributions to cancer research.”
Well aware of the barriers faced by underrepresented minorities in the STEM fields, Folakemi Odedina, PhD, has dedicated most of her 20-year career to expanding opportunities for underrepresented groups in those areas. Her efforts have included developing the first multicultural awareness program at West Virginia University focused on the recruitment and retention of African Americans in the School of Pharmacy; the Economic, Social, and Administrative Pharmacy Division at Florida A&M University to provide graduate training opportunities for African American students; the ISPOR Minority Networking Group to facilitate the interaction, support, and involvement of minority researchers in pharmacoeconomics and outcomes research; a summer research training program for minority undergraduate students; and a research training program focused on cancer disparities research for minority faculty and graduate students. In her current position as a professor in the colleges of pharmacy and medicine at the University of Florida — as well as director of diversity and inclusion for the university’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute — Odedina engages minority students through the ReTOOL program in an effort to increase the pool of minority cancer researchers in Florida.
As coordinator for the Front Range (FR) program at Colorado State University since 2015, Ilana B. Pollack, PhD, spearheads the recruitment of undergraduate women from four colleges in Colorado and Wyoming and ensures that each FR student has access to in-person mentoring with female role models through networking events at each institution. She also makes herself available to answer and address students’ and mentors’ questions and concerns. Pollack coordinates the PROmoting Geoscience Research, Education, and Success (PROGRESS) program and the Analysis of Women’s Advancement, Retention, and Education in Science study — part of a five-year project funded by the National Science Foundation — to recruit and mentor undergraduate women in the geosciences through both formal and informal professional and peer mentoring. Via a Web platform she helped create, she ensures that PROGRESS participants have access to a variety of critical online resources: scholarship and research opportunities, information on graduate schools, peer networks, in-person mentors, and more.
An internationally recognized physical chemist working in the area of chemical reaction dynamics, Hanna Reisler, PhD, is the author of more than 180 publications and book chapters. As a professor of chemistry at the University of Southern California (USC), she helped develop the Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) program at the university, which serves to advance the careers of women in science and engineering at USC — from undergraduate students to full professors. Also, recognizing the need for mentoring for female faculty, Reisler created a networking group of these women that meets once a month to share information and provide mentoring to new hires. In honor of her contributions, the WiSE program established the Hanna Reisler Mentorship Award for women who have advanced the careers of other women in science and engineering through a commitment to personal mentorship.
During her 20 years at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville, Tammy Salmon-Stephens has focused her efforts on addressing the recruitment, retention, and graduation of underrepresented students in STEM fields. She has done so by implementing and participating in on-campus outreach activities for these groups; creating the College of EMS Student Success Programs department, for which she is the director, to improve these students’ recruitment and retention rates; meeting with faculty at all levels to evaluate STEM instruction to ensure it engages students in a holistic and culturally competent way; and developing grant proposals to create STEM programming that supports diverse students, from women and minorities to veterans and first-generation students. In addition, Salmon-Stephens led efforts to improve the representation of women in the College of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science, which has experienced a 72 percent increase in female students since 2010.
Beginning with being the only woman awarded a PhD in the structures track of civil engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, Andrea Schokker, PhD, PE, has continued to break the glass ceiling; she founded the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where she is currently a professor, and in 2011, she became the first female executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the university. In her efforts to help others succeed, she works to ensure gender equity in the faculty and administrative ranks, implementing a fair policy for parental leave and market adjustments to faculty salaries to correct pay disparities across the university. Schokker’s ability to build consensus among groups with differing viewpoints, coupled with her ability to engage young people without intimidating them, makes her an excellent mentor to faculty and students alike.
At Tennessee Technological University, professor Ambareen Siraj, PhD, established the Cybersecurity Education, Research, and Outreach Center with the help of a grant she secured from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She also helped found Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS), a group that seeks to raise awareness about the importance and nature of cybersecurity careers for women, and through that, she launched the WiCys Conference, which brings together students, educators, researchers, industry experts, and others to exchange ideas and collaborate to advance cybersecurity. Siraj currently serves as a volunteer general chair for WiCyS. Furthermore, she has received the Tennessee Tech College of Engineering Teacher-Scholar Award three years in a row.
A vocal advocate of gender equality and an example of how women can have both personal and professional success, Lyudmila Slipchenko, PhD, often participates on panel discussions about gender equity issues and work-life balance. As a professor of chemistry at Purdue University, she trains and mentors graduate students and postdocs, as well as participates in the Women in STEM faculty networking group at the university. In her research — focused on the development of theoretical and computational techniques that target the electronic structure and dynamics of complex molecular systems — she has developed software in several packages (Q-Chem, GAMESS, and Psi4) that has a total user base of thousands of computational chemists.
The majority-female faculty in Stevenson University’s School of the Sciences is an example that it is possible to be a woman and have a successful STEM career. These women — many of whom are at the forefront of their field in areas such as stem cell biology, nutrition and microbial physiology, synthetic organic chemistry, human genetics, and beyond — work to inspire and engage their students, the majority of whom are also women, and nearly one-third of whom are from underrepresented groups. Through mentoring and advising in the areas of research and career development, they not only help students gain critical knowledge and skills, but also gain confidence that they can be successful in science. Passionate about mentoring the next generation of scientists, Stevenson female faculty members participate in numerous programs to reach elementary, middle, and high school students across Maryland and the rest of the country. They have regularly participated in university outreach efforts such as Expanding Your Horizons and Science Camp, as well as community outreach including judging STEM fairs, co-chairing and sponsoring STEM clubs at local schools, and participating in career days. At a higher level, they also mentor up-and-coming postdoctoral scientists, particularly female and underrepresented minority candidates, as they navigate the job search.
University of Central Florida (UCF) biology professor Linda Walters, PhD, is admired by her students for her desire and ability to push them outside their comfort zone and for her genuine concern for their careers. Emphasizing the importance of academic excellence and the scientific process, she provides students critiques of their work and offers guidance on how to properly document data. As an advocate for women faculty, she helped institute and continues to serve as director of the UCF Center for Success of Women Faculty, which has spearheaded many benefits for female faculty including on-campus lactation rooms, expectant mothers’ parking, mentoring and leadership programs, workshops on negotiation training, and more. In Florida, Walters is known as the “Oyster Lady” for her 20-plus years of research on the decline of oysters along the state’s east coast and the subsequent restoration methods she devised. Furthermore, Volusia County proclaimed November 6 “Dr. Linda Walters Day” for her work to protect the county’s coastal resources.
Since 1987, Vassie C. Ware, PhD, has worked hard to secure multi-million dollar research grants from the National Institutes of Health to transform the lives of Lehigh University students, particularly those who are underrepresented in STEM. She also recently secured a grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute to recruit and retain underrepresented minority students studying STEM disciplines, with a focus on providing research experiences, mentoring, and other academic support; also using these funds, she led the development of a STEM residence hall for these students. As the longest-serving faculty member of color in any STEM discipline at Lehigh University, Ware continues to mentor hundreds of female and minority students in fields from mathematics to biology. To date, all of the students she has assisted have gone on to pursue or have received a PhD.
An associate professor of biology at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn., Mong-Lin Yang, PhD, pioneered the Biology Research Program at the university, which has provided opportunities for students to engage in high-level research comparable to that conducted at Research I institutions. She has secured various internal and external funding to fuel the program and has established projects in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and international research universities. As a hardworking, conscientious, and caring scientist, she has mentored many underrepresented students who have gone on to graduate programs. Being a young female, international professor and researcher, Yang is aware of the barriers faced by other young people in STEM disciplines and strives to be a positive role model for them.