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Women Empowers STEM

As we delved into the 20th century last week, let us take a look at the century we are currently in, the 21st century. With myriads of discoveries, this century was revolutionary especially for women as they became more vocal with opportunities being served by the platter. In this week’s article, you will feel a sense of familiarity and in awe of the discoveries made by these wonderful and intelligent pioneers of STEM. 

The 21st century has borne witness to an era of unprecedented scientific and technological progress, with women at the forefront of groundbreaking discoveries and innovations across diverse fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). From decoding the intricacies of the human genome to engineering solutions for sustainable development, women have played pivotal roles in shaping the trajectory of progress and challenging traditional gender norms in STEM disciplines. This essay embarks on an in-depth exploration of the multifaceted contributions of women in STEM, elucidating their transformative impact, and indelible legacies.

Image from: Berkeley College of Chemistry, Jennifer A. Doudna

In the realm of molecular biology, Dr. Jennifer Doudna stands as a beacon of innovation and discovery. Alongside Emmanuelle Charpentier, Doudna pioneered the development of CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology, revolutionizing the field of genetic engineering (Doudna & Charpentier, 2014). Their groundbreaking research has unlocked unprecedented capabilities for precise gene editing with far-reaching implications for medical treatments, agricultural advancements, and biotechnological innovations.

Image from: Nordic Life Science News, Dr May-Britt Moser

Similarly, the contributions of Dr. May-Britt Moser have reshaped our understanding of the human brain and cognitive processes. Together with her husband Edvard Moser and colleague John O'Keefe, Moser discovered grid cells in the brain, laying the foundation for the neuroscience of spatial navigation and memory (Nobel Prize, 2014). Their pioneering research, recognized with the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014, has profound implications for understanding neurological disorders and developing innovative treatments.

Image from: the Guardian, Dr Katie Bouman

Venturing into the cosmos, Dr. Katie Bouman exemplifies the convergence of astrophysics and computational science. Bouman played a pivotal role in producing the first-ever image of a black hole, leveraging her expertise in computer imaging algorithms to reconstruct data captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (Bouman et al., 2019). Her innovative contributions have opened new frontiers in astrophysical research, deepening our understanding of celestial phenomena and the fundamental nature of the universe.

Image from: Quanta Magazine, Dr Christine Darden

In the realm of engineering, Dr. Christine Darden's pioneering work at NASA has propelled advancements in aerospace engineering and supersonic flight. As one of the "Hidden Figures" at NASA, Darden's research on sonic boom prediction and aircraft design has revolutionized the aerospace industry (Shetterly, 2016). Her trailblazing efforts have paved the way for the development of quieter and more efficient supersonic aircraft, shaping the future of aviation.

Image from: Quanta magazine, Limor Fried

In the domain of open-source hardware and DIY electronics, Limor Fried has emerged as a transformative figure. As the founder of Adafruit Industries, Fried has democratized technology education and empowered individuals, particularly women and girls, to engage in hands-on engineering projects (Fried, 2020). Her advocacy for accessibility and inclusivity has fostered a vibrant maker culture, inspiring a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.

Image from: Stanford University, Dr Fei Fei Li

Dr. Fei-Fei Li's contributions to artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision exemplify the intersection of technological innovation and societal impact. As a leading researcher in AI, Li has advanced the frontiers of computer vision and machine learning while advocating for diversity and ethics in AI development (Li, 2018). Her efforts to promote inclusive and equitable AI frameworks have catalyzed transformative change in the tech industry, fostering greater diversity and innovation.

Image from: Time, Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani's pioneering work with Girls Who Code has been instrumental in closing the gender gap in technology and empowering young women to pursue careers in STEM fields (Saujani, 2019). Through Girls Who Code, Saujani has provided thousands of girls with access to coding education, mentorship, and supportive communities, catalyzing a paradigm shift in the tech industry's demographics and culture.

Beyond their individual achievements, these women have been champions of diversity and inclusion in STEM, working tirelessly to dismantle systemic barriers and create pathways for underrepresented groups. Through mentorship, outreach initiatives, and advocacy efforts, they have paved the way for future generations of women and minorities to thrive in STEM disciplines.

The contributions of women in STEM fields throughout the 21st century are a testament to their ingenuity, perseverance, and unwavering commitment to advancing knowledge and improving lives. From decoding the mysteries of the human genome to pushing the boundaries of space exploration, women have been catalysts for progress and agents of change in diverse fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. As we celebrate their achievements, let us reaffirm our commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM, ensuring that the next generation of innovators reflects the rich diversity of human experience and perspectives.


Article prepared by: Nur Anis Afifah Mohd Elias, Research and Development Associate of MBIOS 23/24

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  1. Bouman, K. L., Johnson, M. D., Blackburn, L. M., Altamirano, H., Chael, A. A., Schwieterman, E. W.,... & Doeleman, S. S. (2019). First M87 Event Horizon Telescope Results. I. The Shadow of the Supermassive Black Hole. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 875(1), L1.

  2. Doudna, J. A., & Charpentier, E. (2014). The new frontier of genome engineering with CRISPR-Cas9. Science, 346(6213), 1258096. 

  3. Fried, L. (2020). Limor Fried. Retrieved from 

  4. Li, F. (2018). How we're teaching computers to understand pictures. Retrieved from 

  5. Nobel Prize. (2014). The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2014. Retrieved from 

  6. Saujani, R. (2019). Reshma Saujani: The overlooked workforce. Retrieved from

  7. Shetterly, M. L. (2016). Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. William Morrow.


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