Beyond Curie x Outside Magazine Collaboration
We stand on the shoulders of the countless women that stood before us. These women have paved the way for future generations, giving women of today opportunities to make their mark in the world. While significant strides have been made to diverse STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, women of color still remain vastly underrepresented in STEM. According to the Education of Digest Statistics, 2017–2018, women of color earned a small percentage (14.1%) of bachelor's degrees across all STEM fields (Asian women: 5.3%, Black women: 2.9%, Latinas: 4.3%, and Native women: 0.1%). Despite the many challenges and obstacles women of color still face in their professions and workplaces, their strength and tenacity persevere. This article seeks to celebrate the accomplishments and triumphs of young, successful women of color leaders in STEM who have raised the bar and are reinventing the standard for all women in STEM fields.
Minority Women in STEM, You can do it…. It’s understanding the universe & it’s being connected to the universe & making the world a better place. – Candy Torres
Jedidah C. Isler
Dr. Isler was the first American woman to earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Yale. She is also an award-winning researcher and TED fellow speaker who advocates for women of color in science. She completed a study about blazars, a particle from a hyperactive black hole that consumes light thousands of times faster than a black hole and can jet out these blazer particles at 99.99% of light's speed (Olivia Colombo, 2018). Currently, she is doing a study on the origin of energy from these hyperactive black holes. She also teaches and speaks on the importance of inclusiveness in STEM. Her work in astrophysics earned her an invitation to the White House (Olivia Colombo, 2018).
Farida Bedwei may have cerebral palsy, but she did not allow her condition to shape her life. She is a successful entrepreneur and software engineer. She is a role model that has rekindled the hopes of many families and people living with cerebral palsy through her powerful fictional protagonists, Zaara and Karmzah. She uses her story and experiences to reshape the widely misunderstood disability and taboos in various parts of Ghana and Africa. Her tenacity, resilience, and hard work enabled her to complete a diploma in information systems. Securing a dream job as a junior programmer in a leading software development company and co-founding a fintech company, Logiciel, that promotes financial inclusion by building micro-banking systems for financial institutions. (Farida Bedwei | Her Abilities Award, n.d.).
Lisa Ng is an award-winning Singaporean viral immunologist. In 2008, she became the first woman in Singapore to win the ASEAN Young Scientist and Technology Award for her studies in developing diagnostic kits for Avian Influenza and Sars-CoV and Avian Influenza. Her current research includes Sars-CoV-19 and endemic tropical diseases (Poh Ng, 2003). She is also part of the 'Beyond Curie" projects as a pioneer in Viral Immunology and Singapore Women's Hall of Fame, and the senior principal investigator at the Singapore Immunology Network (SigN), a project that undertakes research on viral infections such as Zika virus, dengue, and flavi-viruses. Some of her awards include the Most Inspiring Woman of Our Time Award for science and technology, and the Biovisions Next Fellow Award (Poh Ng, 2003).
Dr. Dijanna Figueroa, PhD
Dr. Figueroa is a marine scientist and STEAM education specialist, and director of education. She holds a bachelor of science in marine biology from the University of California of Los Angeles and a Ph.D. in marine science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has more than ten years of experience teaching engineering, science, and STEM in grades K-8 schools. Most of her work as a deep-sea marine scientist and educator have been featured in publications, nature programs, and various science documentaries. She has worked as a research scientist at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California (Dr. Dijanna Figueroa, 2020). She also worked as a marine scientist and science educator at Cameron's production company. Dijanna has made the ocean accessible to everyone through her career of exploring the mysteries of the deep. She currently teaches middle-school science at St. Matthew's Parish School, and runs enrichment programs that teach students how to scuba dive, fly a drone, and build underwater robots. (Dr. Dijanna Figueroa, 2020)
Dr. Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician. She was the first woman and first Iranian to be awarded a Fields Medal from the International Mathematical Union. Today, she remains as the only woman thus far to receive that prize. Additionally, she received an award for her outstanding contribution in geometry and the dynamics of Riemann surfaces, and their moduli spaces. At the age of 31, she was a full rank professor at Stanford University’s mathematics department and remained there for the rest of her career. She pursued a study in geodesics, the most direct paths in hyperbolic geometries. In a series of her key papers, she developed theorems to characterize geodesics that would promote airplane circumnavigating around the Earth. Her contributions and awards were an incredible breakthrough for the quest for equality in STEM disciplines. (Bang, n.d.) On 14 July 2017, Dr. Mirzakhani died of breast cancer at the age of 40. Nevertheless, she remains, posthumously, one of the most remarkable mathematicians of our time.
Kalpana Chawla was an Indian-American astronaut, engineer, and the first woman of Indian descent to go to space. She first flew in 1997, as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator on Space Shuttle Columbia. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of honor in 2003, after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster when the spacecraft disintegrated during its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, killing Chawla and her six other crew members. She is considered to be a national hero in both India and the United States. Chawla earned an Aeronautic engineering degree from Punjab Engineering College and Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas in 1984. An avid learner, she obtained a second master's degree in 1986, and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado.
I feel a sense of urgency to create change.....We need the best and brightest minds and the most passionate and committed hearts to pursue STEM careers and take on the significant challenges that face human society and our world. – Karen Rodriguez
These women faced many challenges and hardships in their stellar careers, but their passion for STEM and determination caused them to persevere and become successful. Today we celebrate their successes, while recognizing that decreasing the gender and racial gaps is still paramount for promoting a truly equitable environment for future generations of all women in STEM. Furthermore, the accomplishments of women of color leaders in STEM deserve the highest praise. Their successes and triumphs have raised the bar, allowing the next generation of women leaders to exist in a world of endless possibilities within STEM fields.
Olivia Colombo. (2018, March 8). 5 Powerful Women in STEM You Need to Know. Jane Goodall’s Good for All News. https://news.janegoodall.org/2018/03/08/5-powerful-women-stem-need-know/
Women of Color in STEM: The Past, Present, and Future. (2020, January 9). Maryville Online. https://online.maryville.edu/blog/women-of-color-in-stem/
Dr. Dijanna Figueroa. (2020). www.stmatthewsschool.com.
Poh Ng, L. F. (2003). The Virus That Changed My World. PLoS Biology, 1(3), e66. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0000066Bang, S. W. A. (n.d.). Maryam Mirzakhani, A Candle Illuminating the Dark. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/01/maryam-mirzakhani-a-candle-illuminating-the-dark/?sh=52dfae6336c1
S.S. Kalpana Chawla NG-14 Cargo Delivery Mission to the International Space Station https://www.northropgrumman.com/wp-content/uploads/Kalpana_Chawla_Biography.pdf