Brighten Youth Education Centre




Last week we cited several examples of female trailblazers in STEM over the last two thousand years. Yet as the face of scientific research becomes increasingly female, we thought we’d add some contemporary examples, drawing attention to their astonishing work and offering role models for girls and young women contemplating similar careers.

If you think your future lies in the stars then consider the career of Emily Levesque, a former Hubble Fellow at the University of Colorado at Bolder, currently working to improve our understanding of massive stars by building models of galaxies and analysing wavelength data. The American astronomer is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington ( Her work will allow massive stars to be effectively used as cosmological tools. In the field of theoretical cosmology Katherine Freese (, currently Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan, has been proposing ways to find dark matter, an unidentified type of matter that emits no light, so cannot be directly observed. Her research has prompted her to propose the idea of “dark stars”, powered by dark matter instead of nuclear fusion.

If your interests are biological then consider the career of Nina Tandon (, biomedical engineer, CEO and co-founder of EpiBone (, a company growing bones for skeletal reconstruction. Techniques used by this company allow bone for surgical reconstruction to be grown from a patient’s own cells, rather than donated matter. Tandon is also an adjunct professor of Electrical Engineering at Cooper Union and a senior fellow at the Lab for Stem Cell Engineering at Columbia. Or there’s Jennifer Doudna (, currently Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Doudna has developed the CRISPR system, which would allow scientists to make genetic changes relatively easily. While this work is still at the animal testing stage, recent successes indicate that in the future scientists may be able to cure a host of diseases with genetic causes by eliminating highly specific mutations. She is also a prolific author who has received a raft of prestigious international prizes over several decades.

Lastly there is German neuroscientist Katrin Amunts (, now professor at Jülich Research Centre in Germany and the director of the Cecile and Oskar Vogt Institute for Brain Research at the Heinrich Heine University. He current work focuses on “brain mapping”, and her ultimate goal is to create a 3D atlas mapped to structures of the brain, allowing complex configurations and functions to be imaged and understood microscopically. Obviously this would greatly enhance our understanding of the brain, but it would also aid our ability to combat brain diseases, including depression and Parkinson’s disease. So ladies, have you decided yet how you’re going to reshape the future?


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