According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, men still outnumber women in American STEM. Many programs have been created to introduce women to science and medicine at a younger age, and female scientists of the past are finally getting the recognition they so richly deserve. But still, the odds can feel like they are against women who want to work in STEM fields.
That’s what makes these five game-changing female scientists so impressive. These famous women in STEM are role models who are paving the way for the next generation of female scientists.
Michele Koppes, Glaciologist
Koppes studies our earth’s response to climate change, focusing primarily on glaciers. Her recent projects include quantifying the glacier changes caused by climate change, looking at the effects of climate change on meltwater resources and understanding glacier dynamics — how they move, carve and melt.
“I am fascinated with all rates of geomorphic change, particularly the effects of humans on the landscape and how we compare to other natural geomorphic agents such as glaciers and rivers,” Koppes writes in her bio for the University of British Columbia, where she is an associate professor.
Koppes has also been vocal about the struggles famous women in STEM face.
“I constantly need to prove I am not only scientifically capable, but hardy enough to thrive in the field, in the harsh environments of my research,” Koppes told TED Fellows. “Doing science properly is rife with failed attempts — on top of this, women must stand up for their legitimate seat at the table.”
Renee Hlozek, Cosmologist
Hlozek, a South African scientist, studies the cosmic microwave background, which is the radiation left over from the Big Bang. She hopes to understand the initial conditions of the universe and how it grew into what we see today, according to TED Fellows. She developed BEAMS, a scientific method for understanding contaminated cosmological data, and has won numerous fellowships and awards, including a TED fellowship and Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford. She’s currently a professor at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Ayanna Howard, Robot Scientist
Howard once worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a senior robotics researcher. She is now a robotics professor at Georgia Institute of Technology. One of her most well-known successes was the design of “SnoMote,” a robot that could work in remote ice environments inaccessible to humans. In 2013, she founded Zyrobotics, a company that produces technology for kids living with special needs, she told PC Magazine.
According to Howard’s Georgia Tech bio, “her academic career is highlighted by her focus on technology development for intelligent agents that must interact with and in a human-centered world, as well as on the education and mentoring of students in the engineering and computing fields.”
Peggy Whitson, Astronaut
Whitson is the most experienced female astronaut at NASA. She’s spent 665 days in space, which is “longer than any American ever and more time than any woman worldwide,” according to NPR. Whitson has taken 10 space walks, and she takes the lead as the first woman to command the ISS twice.
Katrin Amunts, Neuroscientist
Amunts works at the University of Dusseldorf, where her current project is creating a 3-D map of the human brain. She is one of the most prominent brain-mapping neuroscientists in the world. Amunts and her team constructed the most detailed map of the human brain to date. It could help us understand more about the brain, how it works and how it affects human behavior, according to Motherboard.
The 3-D brain atlas has “50 times the resolution of previous such maps,” reported the MIT Technology Review. “The atlas, which took a decade to complete, required slicing a brain into thousands of thin slices and digitally stitching them back together with the help of supercomputers … It is a major step forward in understanding the brain’s three-dimensional anatomy.”
Honoring Women in STEM
These women are creating brighter futures for generations of female scientists. Their groundbreaking research and developments shed light on the mysteries of the world as we know it — and their leadership in their respective fields heralds great things to come for women in STEM.