I happened to be in Washington, D.C., visiting the Smithsonian Castle earlier this month when I noticed something curious happening in the gardens just outside. Dozens of life-sized 3D statues of women who have excelled in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) were being set up in honor of Women’s History Month. The Smithsonian called it the largest collection of women statues ever assembled.
The 120 women were selected as Ambassadors by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Lyda Hill Philanthropies for being trailblazers in their fields, and role models for the next generation of women in STEM. Before Women’s History Month 2022 closes, I wanted to share a few stories of the amazing women featured in this project.
1. Joyonna Gamble-George, Health Scientist
What you should know: Studies factors that contribute to health issues in medically underserved populations.
More about her work: With more than a decade of research expertise in the area of Alzheimer’s disease pathology, anxiety and stress-related disorders, neurotoxicity, drug addiction, and therapeutics, you could say Dr. Joyonna Gamble-George knows a thing or two about the brain! She gives her expertise as a Health Scientist at the National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Disorder Institute. She is also the co-founder of SciX, creating science-based and health-related mobile, wearable applications and devices for monitoring and responding to risk factors responsible for various health conditions, human behaviors, and neuro-sensory thresholds to predict, prevent, and manage life-altering events.
2. Myria Perez, Geologist and Paleontologist
Area of focus: Worked with paleontologist Louis Jacobs to unearth never before seen fossils from Angola.
More about her work: Myria Perez started out as a volunteer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science when she was twelve. She pursued her undergraduate degrees in Geology and Anthropology at Southern Methodist University while working in the fossil labs on campus. During her collegiate years, she conducted research and was a part of a Smithsonian Institution exhibition on Cretaceous marine reptiles from Angola, Sea Monsters Unearthed: Life in Angola’s Ancient Seas. She currently works at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in the Deep Time Fossil Lab, cleaning fossils while inspiring young women in STEM.
3. Jessica Taaffe, Cell and Molecular Biologist
Area of focus: Uses science to tackle global health problems.
More about her work: Dr. Jessica Taaffe is a global health scientist who wants to share her knowledge. She works in Washington, D.C., helping scientists around the world to collaborate and use data science in their infectious disease and global health research. As a global health professional, her goal is to help people, directly impacting global health and international development through policy, advocacy, and communication activities. Her research has focused on tuberculosis, HIV, malaria, influenza and much more. You can catch her as a regular panelist and science correspondent on the Youtube series This Week in Global Health.
4. Ciara Sivels, Nuclear Engineer
Area of focus: Researches nuclear explosion monitoring and treaty verification, and has resulted in four authored publications.
More about her work: Dr. Ciara Sivels is a nuclear engineer, elementary school math mentor, and almost pastry chef who became the first black woman to earn a PhD from the University of Michigan in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences. She now works at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), where she looks at how radiation interacts with and changes the properties of various types of materials. Her work as a math mentor for children she says is one of her highlights, as she hopes if they see someone like her doing something they never knew was possible, it might change their lives.
5. Charita Castro, Social Science Research
Area of focus: Fighting to end child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking with data and research.
More about her: Dr. Castro began her career as a survey statistician at the U.S. Census Bureau under the Presidential Management Fellowship; conducted field research on health hazards to children working on sugarcane farms under a Fulbright Fellowship; and became the inaugural Chief of Research and Policy in the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking at the U.S. Department of Labor. Dr. Castro has played a leadership role in measuring the prevalence of child labor in West African cocoa production used for chocolate and examining forced labor conditions in the production of electronics, such as cell phones, in Malaysia. This work is not just technical for Dr. Castro. As a child of the Filipino diaspora and daughter of Asian immigrants, research work tugs at her sense of humanity and personal obligation to be in service of others.
6. Dana Bolles, Spaceflight Engineer
Area of focus: Wears many hats at a NASA from engineering to communicating about the search for life beyond Earth.
More about her: Dana Bolles relied on equipment to be independent from the age of 2, which inspired her to become an engineer and work for a space agency. She works for the Science Engagement and Partnerships Division at NASA headquarters in science communications for the search beyond earth. With a visible disability, Dana wants break the stigma and encourage people to not let others bring you down and to believe in yourself. She brings a unique perspective, surpassing expectations on her path. Dana also volunteers for employee resource groups (ERGs) for women, people with disabilities, and LGBT communities.
7. Wendy Bohon, Geologist
Area of focus: Studies earthquakes and works to improve the communication of earthquake hazard and risk.
More about her: Geologist Wendy Bohon studies earthquakes and works to improve the communication of hazard and risk before, during and after rapid onset geologic hazards. Wendy was pursuing a career in acting until one day she felt everything shaking and she found STEM; now she works as the geologist and science communication specialist for the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology.
Question: Do you know a young woman who is interested in pursuing a career in STEM? Share this with her!