Every February (the 11th to be exact), we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This UN designated day honors the contributions and strides of women and girls in STEM disciplines across the globe (International Day of Women and Girls in Science). In the spirit of celebration, let’s take a look at some brilliant STEM minds and their accomplishments throughout history.
An Austrian-born physicist, Lise Meitner is known for her research contributions to the discovery of uranium fission. After receiving her doctorate from the University of Vienna, Meitner joined Otto Hahn in researching radioactivity. Meitner is credited for studying the physical characteristics of the process she coined fission. While Hahn received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the discovery of nuclear fission, many have argued Meitner should have received a share of the award (Lise Meitner 2021).
An American-born physician and astronaut, Mae Jemison has quite the impressive list of scientific accomplishments. With degrees in chemical engineering and African American studies from Stanford University, Jemison began her scientific pursuits in the realm of medicine, serving as a general practitioner and a medical officer with the Peace Corps in West Africa. Upon returning to the United States, Jemison was the first African American woman to become an astronaut and spent over a week orbiting the Earth in the space shuttle Endeavor (Mae Jemison 2021).
An American-born chemical engineer, Frances Arnold is best known for her work on the evolution of enzymes. With degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University and a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of California, Arnold made great strides in enzyme evolution that have had impacts in the alternative energy industry. She won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work in 2018 (Frances Arnold).
A Puerto Rican-born engineer, Olga Gonzalez-Sanabria is a famous Ohioan known for accomplishments working with NASA. With chemical engineering degrees from the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Toledo, Gonzalez-Sanabria has worked several positions throughout NASA—most recently as the Director of Engineering at the Glenn Research Center. She was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003 (Zona).
The list of accomplishments of women and girls in science goes on and on. And while clearly there is much celebration to be had, both for the women mentioned above and the many more women and girls making great strides in STEM across the globe, we at Ohio Energy Project know there is still important work to be done. In fact, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women only comprise 28% of the science and engineering workforce even though they make up about half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce (Statistics). And while this study focuses on students pursuing a college education, we know that those women entering the workforce earlier also follow this trend. It’s critical, now more than ever, to ensure that we actively provide equitable opportunities for all learners to explore their passions, whether it be through science textbooks or space flight.
This February, and every day thereafter, let’s continue to encourage the women and girls in our lives to follow their STEM dreams. Who knows, maybe one day we just might see some familiar faces on a list such as this!
Calling all students and teachers! Interested in learning more about STEM career opportunities? Mark your calendars for Ohio Energy Project’s Women in Energy panel on March 24th. Registration for this free event opens March 5th.
Looking to spruce up your space with some STEM inspiration? Check out these awesome free poster downloads featuring some brilliant STEM minds.
Frances Arnold. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Frances-Arnold
International Day of Women and Girls in Science. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://www.un.org/en/observances/women-and-girls-in-science-day
Lise Meitner. (2021, February 10). Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lise-Meitner
Mae Jemison. (2021, February 11). Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mae-Jemison
Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://ngcproject.org/statistics
Zona, K. (Ed.). (n.d.). Biography of Olga D. GONZALEZ-SANABRIA. Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/about/bios/gonzalez_bio.html