Susan Solomon (1956 – Present)
Susan Solomon is an atmospheric chemist and Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Solomon’s interest in science began in her childhood, developed during high school, and flourished throughout her undergraduate years at the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 1977, her interest in chemistry led her to pursue graduate studies in atmospheric chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. After receiving her PhD in 1981, Solomon began working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory. There, Solomon studied the effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) on the ozone layer.
She proposed the ozone hole looming over Antarctica was caused by a reaction between ozone molecules and free radicals from CFCs that are present on ice surfaces in high altitude regions like Antarctica. Solomon also theorized that clouds at high altitudes, specifically polar stratospheric clouds, attracted CFCs. The CFCs would then crystallize on the clouds and create the perfect conditions for ozone-depleting reactions to occur, such as the formation of ClO, leading to conversion of ozone to oxygen. To test her theory, Solomon led expeditions in 1986 and 1987 to investigate what exactly was boring a hole through Antarctica’s ozone layer. Indeed, Solomon’s hypothesis was correct: the high altitudes in the Arctic region create conditions that promote ClO formation and depletion of the ozone layer. Solomon’s research contributed to the implementation of the Montreal Protocol in 1987. In 1999, Solomon was awarded the National Medal of Science for her work confirming a link between CFCs, ClO, and ozone layer depletion.
Chien-Shiung Wu (1912 – 1997)
Jane Goodall (1984 – Present)
Livia Schiavinato Eberlin (? – Present)
Livia S. Eberlin leads a research group dedicated to developing novel mass spectrometry techniques to detect cancerous tissue. She completed her BSc at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in her hometown of Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil. During her undergraduate degree, she began research in mass spectrometry in the Thomson Laboratory (UNICAMP), and was a visiting student at the Aston Laboratory at Purdue University. She continued to pursue her PhD in Analytical Chemistry under the supervision of Prof. Graham Cooks at Purdue, during which she worked on developing the MassSpec Pen, a handheld mass spectrometry device designed for rapid and non-destructive diagnosis of human cancer tissues. The MassSpec Pen was featured in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy! Following her PhD, Prof. Eberlin continued to use ambient ionization methods as a postdoctoral scholar in Prof. Richard Zare’s lab (Stanford University). Currently as an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, her research group aims to progress the interface of chemistry and medicine, and to address important clinical issues using mass spectrometry.
Prof. Eberlin has earned numerous awards, including the L’Oréal USA for Women in Science Fellowship (2014), Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences (2014), and the Sloan Research Fellowship (2018). In 2015, she was included in the “Forbes’ 30 under 30” list in Science and Healthcare whilst a postdoctoral scholar. Outside of work, her group volunteers together, and she raises three children with her husband.
Maud Menten (1879 – 1960)
Lise Meitner (1878 – 1968)
Born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria in 1878, Lise Meitner was one of eight children of Philip Meitner, who was one of the first Jewish lawyers in Austria. In 1901, she began her studies in physics under Ludwig Boltzmann (of the Boltzmann distribution or the Boltzmann constant in statistical mechanics) at the University of Vienna, and in 1906 she became the second woman to receive a doctoral degree in physics at the university. After graduation, she moved to Berlin where she attended lectures from famous physicist Max Planck and joined German chemist Otto Hahn, who she worked with for 30 years.
Meitner’s list of accomplishments is quite impressive, including her discovery of element 91 protactinium in 1918 and the Auger effect in 1923. Her claim to fame however lies in the discovery of nuclear fission – the splitting of an atomic nucleus into smaller parts. This finding, however, was made in 1939, one year after Meitner was forced to flee Germany due to the Nazi takeover. As a result of her move, her meetings with co-worker Hahn were done in secret, leading to Hahn taking most of the credit for the discovery. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1944, with Lise Meitner’s contribution largely ignored until 1966 when she was awarded the Enrico Fermi Award – a prestigious award for excellence in research surrounding technology and energy science that benefits mankind. After living a fulfilling life, Lise Meitner passed away in her sleep in October 1968 at the age of 89.
Paulette Spencer (??? – Present)
Mae Jemison (1956 – Present)
Dr. Jemison was born in Alabama in 1956, and grew up in Chicago. She graduated from Morgan Park High School at 16 years of age, then went on to attend Stanford University where she earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. In 1981, she earned a Doctor of Medicine degree from Cornell University. During her studies at Cornell, she traveled to Cuba, Kenya and Thailand to provide medical care. After graduation, Dr. Jemison served in the Peace Corps as a Medical Officer from 1983 to 1985 where she was responsible for the health of volunteers serving in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Upon returning to the U.S., Dr. Jemison worked with Cigna Health Plans of California as a general practitioner. In 1987, she became the first African-American woman to be admitted into NASA’s astronaut training program. In 1992, she flew into space aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, becoming the first African-American woman in space. After leaving NASA in 1993, she assumed teaching positions at Dartmouth University, followed by Cornell University.
Dr. Jemison is an advocate of science education in schools that encourage minority students to pursue STEM careers. Her entrepreneurial activities include founding the Jemison Group to develop technology for daily life, and the creation of BioSentient Corp to develop portable technology to monitor the nervous system. She has won many awards including the Kilby Science Award in 1993 and the Intrepid Award by the National Organization for Girls in 2003.
Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011)
In the proceeding decades Maathai was involved in much environmental and political activism in Kenya. She was elected to parliament in 2002 and was appointed assistant minister of the Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources. She received the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her “contributions to sustainable development, democracy, and peace,” making her the first African woman and first environmentalist to win the prize. Wangari Maathai died in 2011 of ovarian cancer.
Evangelina Villegas (1924 – 2017)
Born in 1924 in Mexico City, Villegas earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and biology at the National Polytechnic Institute. She began her career as a research chemist in 1950 at Mexico’s National Institute of Nutrition and at the Special Studies Office, that would later become the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). She left for a brief period to earn a Master of Science degree in cereal technology from Kansas State University and a doctoral degree in cereal chemistry and breeding from North Dakota State University, in 1967.
While in charge of the lab investigating protein quality, she partnered with Surinder Vasal, a CIMMYT maize breeder, to develop a variety of maize with higher levels of lysine and tryptophan, two key amino acids. Their many years of research culminated in the creation of quality protein maize, which featured enhanced levels of both amino acids, while maintaining the texture and flavour of conventional maize. Quality protein maize has consistently shown to be particularly effective in improving the nutritional status of young children.
Villegas was the first woman ever to receive the World Food Prize and was named “Woman of the year” in Mexico in 2000 for her accomplishments. She passed away in April of 2017.