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5 Modern Women in STEM Who Are Changing the World

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Gustavus chapter.

STEM, the infamous acronym for all professions usually not associated with women. The sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics are still thought of as a boy’s club, and in many ways, they are. Even with programs and initiatives urging women into these fields, women make up only 29% of the science and engineering workforce. Despite this, the women who are in STEM fields are doing unbelievably amazing things—often times they’re the powerhouses of their field, earning accolade after accolade, and blowing away the competition. Women in the STEM field are not just capable of great things, they are doing great things. Their notoriety and unprecedented success deserves to be celebrated, so without further adieu, here are five women, right here, right now, who are changing the world.

1. Nina Tandon: The Bone Reconstructor

Tandon is an American biomedical engineer with her MBA and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Columbia University, an MS in Electrical Engineering from MIT, and a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from Cooper Union. Aside from her impressive education, she is the CEO and co-founder of EpiBone, “the world’s first company growing bones for skeletal reconstruction.” Tandon studies ways to use electrical signals to grow artificial tissues for transplants and other therapies.  She is also the co-author of the acclaimed Super Cells: Building with Biology and in 2012, was named a TED senior fellow. Not only is she an amazing and notarized CEO, author, and scientist, but Tandon also finds time to run marathons and teach at science camps for underprivileged children.

2. Laura Boykin: Bringing Agricultural Stability to Africa One Whitefly at a Time

Boykin is an American computational biologist in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Western Australia. In 2015, she won both a TED Fellowship and the Faculty of Science Rising Star 2015. Her research works to equip African scientists with genomics (the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of genomes). And, as a recently named TED Fellow, her work helps save cassava crops in Africa from the devastating infestation of whiteflies. Cassava is a starchy root that is a major source of carbohydrates, similar to potatoes. Perhaps that doesn’t sound very glamorous, but her research helps stabilize agricultural resources in the places that need help the most.

3. Lucianne Walkowicz: One Stellar Astronomer

Walkowicz is an Astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. She studies stellar magnetic activity and how stars influence a planet’s suitability as a host for alien life. Lately she’s been working on NASA’s Kepler mission, researching and observing starspots and the tempestuous tantrums of stellar flares to understand stellar magnetic fields. She was the Kepler Fellow at UC Berkeley, and the Henry Norris Russell Fellow at Princeton University, before joining the Astronomy Department at Adler Planetarium in 2014. Her work has led her to achieve many awards as well–she is a TED Senior Fellow, a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow, and has been praised for her work advocating for conservation of dark night skies

4. Jennifer Doudna: Her “CRISPR” Success

Doudna is a Professor of Chemistry and of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Doudna earned her B.A. in Chemistry from Pomona College, and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Harvard University. In her research, Doudna generated an entirely new discovery that would reduce the time and work needed to edit genomic DNA. The discovery was of a protein called Cas9 found in the Streptococcus bacteria “CRISPR” immune system. This protein, which works similar to a pair of scissors, attacks its prey (most often in the form of DNA viruses), and cuts them to pieces. Doudna has since spent time talking about the bioethics of using CRISPR and it’s implications in genome modification.

5. Maryam Mirzakhani: A Nobel Mathematician

Mirzakhani is an Iranian-American mathematician and a professor of mathematics at Stanford University. In August 2014, Mirzakhani became both the first woman and the first Iranian honored with the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics (basically the Nobel Prize for Math). However, this wasn’t exactly her first rodeo in terms of breaking the mathematician’s glass ceiling. In 1994, Mirzakhani was the first female Iranian student to win a gold medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad. And then, hitting while the iron was hot, she became the first Iranian student to achieve a perfect score in the 1995 International Mathematical Olympiad. She later came to the United States for graduate work, earning a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Besides her prestigious and acclaimed career as a student she has gone on to win many other awards including the Blumenthal Award in 2009, Satter Prize in 2013, and the Clay Research Award and Fields Medal in 2014.

All of these women have achieved such spectacular things within their lives and set a positive example for the rest of us to look up to. STEM may be a field primarily led by males, but females in the STEM fields are changing the world every single day.