There is no doubt that women have made an immense impact on the sciences. From Marie Curie to Esther Takeuchi, women have made outstanding contributions to innovation, research, and technology.
In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating by (briefly) highlighting a few women who have changed STEM.
A list of pioneering women in STEM would be incomplete if it did not include the extraordinary Marie Curie. Her inspiring story and discovery or radium helped pave the way to inspire many future women in STEM. Curie was the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, and the only person to win in multiple sciences.
Continuing the work of her mother Marie Curie, Irene Joliot-Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1935 for the synthesis of new radioactive elements. Her work included the study of natural and artificial radioactivity, transmutation of elements, and nuclear physics. Joliot-Curie’s work lead to research by German physicist that eventually resulted in the discovery of nuclear fission.
Lili Deligianni’s innovative work in chemical engineering has led to cutting-edge developments in chip technology and thin film solar cells. She has been with ECS for many years, currently serving as the Society’s secretary. Her current research interests in the development of materials for low power on-chip converters and thin film solar cells are game changing technologies that could have applications in solar panel sand electric cars.
“Even though there has been a lot of progress getting women in powerful positions and in Science and Technology careers, the numbers are still lower than what we would like to see,” Deligianni said. “In the end, it is easier to develop new technologies than to change people’s behavior. Similar to technology development, the women in STEM initiative will have to be deployed at scale. For things to change dramatically, we will have to have many more women in STEM careers, many more women who climb to the top of the technical careers. We are still at the prototype stage and early deployment with this.”
“Amazing Grace” Hopper is perhaps most noted for having invented key software technologies that laid the groundwork for today’s computer languages, which remain part of our everyday life. She was a computer programing pioneering and the first woman at Yale University to earn a doctorate in math.
Esther Takeuchi’s career has made an immense impact on science. She currently holds more than 150 U.S. patents and her contributions to the battery system that is till used to power the majority of life-saving implantable cardiac defibrillators landed her the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2008, where President Obama complimented her on her work that is “responsible for saving millions of live.”
Pioneering work in the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite have made Rosalind Franklin a pioneering chemist. Her research in X-ray crystallography was later used by Watson and Crick to develop their model of DNA, which won them a Nobel Prize in 1962.
In 1961 Joan Berkowitz joined ECS, later becoming the Society’s first female president in 1979. She was active in what is now the HTM Division and was also a divisional editor for the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. Berkowitz designed experiments in metals melting and eutectic solidificiation in space for the lunar space program, co-authoring a monograph on industrial utilization of NASA’s developments in electroplating.
Johna Leddy is an established researcher in electrochemical power sources and a highly respected mentor to the students of the Leddy Lab. Her research interests include magnetic effects on electron transfer reactions and electrocatalysis. She has been actively involved with ECS since 1979 and has served on the Executive Committee of the Physical and Analytical Electrochemistry Division.