Take a moment to reflect on the most impactful women in your life. Is/was she family? Your best friend? A teacher? Or healer?
Now think for a few more minutes about how different your life would be if you never met her. What aspects of your life would change the most?
Not so long ago there was a time when women weren’t so celebrated. A dark history where we fought tooth and nail for our right to work, have a bank account, drive … and even vote. But thankfully we’ve come a long way.
And there are some truly remarkable pioneering women in science we’ll never forget: From the discovery of polonium and radium and the ground-breaking use of radiation in medicine by Marie Curie, to Ada Yonath, who elucidated the crystal structure of the ribosome. And foundations of CRISPR gene editing techniques by Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier.
So in the spirit of this 112th International Women’s Day, I wanted to honor some of our HPLC Sheroes at Thermo Fisher Scientific.
At what age did you fall in love with science? I’d have to say my interest in science began when I was a college student. For my first two years of college, I was an international studies major. Required courses for my major had me writing papers on topics such as the economic policies of former Eastern Bloc nations or studying the history of tribal warfare. Meanwhile, I was taking electives “on the side” in courses such as differential equations, organic chemistry, and physics. But it was when I took another “elective,” quantitative analysis, that I had my first real connection to analytical chemistry – I was completely hooked.
What’s your best memory of science as a child? My best memory was when I was 14 years old and spent a few weeks in a summer camp canoeing in the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay collecting water samples for testing to determine the health of the estuary.
What’s your favorite element? Americium. This element is my favorite because it is used in the detection mechanism in household smoke detectors. So, in this application it has been responsible for saving countless lives.
What do you think is the most impactful scientific invention or discovery to date? Of late, it would have to be CRISPR technology for its potential to be used in gene editing applications.
Who’s your favorite scientist of all time? My father-in-law, Arthur Taggi. He is also a chemist and was one of the inventors of the holographic technology that is used in passports and other forms of government identification. And he’s a great guy!
What quote do you live by? “Progress, not perfection.”
If you could time travel, would you go to the past or future? I wouldn’t do either because it would disturb the space-time continuum and potentially destroy the universe as we know it.
What’s your advice for our young women in STEM? Do what you find exciting (and scares you a little bit), not what is easy.
At what age did you fall in love with science? I was 11 years old.
What’s your best memory of science as a child? I remember pushing all the adults around me to answer my question: “Why is everything on the earth so colored if my science book states that the atom has no color”? I still can laugh at my “little me” bothering people with weird questions.
What’s your favorite element? Titanium
What do you think is the most impactful scientific invention or discovery to date? The wheel! Why? No one can re-invent it!
Who’s your favorite scientist of all time? Albert Einstein, because he had strong knowledge, but he was brave and smart enough to trust not only his knowledge but also to dare based on his intuition.
What quote do you live by? “The only real valuable thing is intuition,” as Albert Einstein said. And I think many women are so focused on demonstrating their value that sometimes they lose confidence in their intuition. They should not. They should be braver and trust themselves more.
If you could time travel, would you go to the past or future? The past because I think the technology difference from the ‘70s to nowadays is impressive. I wish I could have experienced step-by-step the innovation in this field as a scientist. I mean, can you imagine starting with the first HPLC in the ‘70s (well … and also with that music!) and now retire after using our Vanquish LC Systems? That would make my life just amazing.
What’s your advice for our young women in STEM? Let me inspire you with a quote from Rita Levi Montalcini: “The body does whatever it wants. I am not my body. I am my mind.” Don’t be scared, your brain always has a good answer.
At what age did you fall in love with science? Teachers have had a huge impact on my life. … I had a science teacher in seventh grade who was fun and quirky. Mr. Dudek’s passion and enthusiasm for science rubbed off on me and I gravitated toward the subject as a whole. I really began my love of chemistry in 10th grade after watching my teacher do some demos the first week of class – elephant toothpaste, using pH indicators turning “water” to “beer” to “wine,” making nylon, burning money … the list goes on.
What’s your best memory of science as a child? Probably my best memory is winning the science fair in eighth grade! I worked with my dad to build a large watermill and used a sump pump or hand crank to move the water and generate electricity and produce light using a bike light. It was pretty fun to have my dad drop my science fair project off at school with his pickup truck and to see all of my classmates just stare.
What’s your favorite element? Einsteinium! Element 99 – it’s a pretty cool element and it’s the one I had to write a report on in 10th grade – I pulled a number out of a hat and I wasn’t sure clear if it was element 66 (Dysprosium) or 99 so I got to pick!
What do you think is the most impactful scientific invention or discovery to date? That’s a tough question – so many improvements to our lives are made through scientific discovery. If I had to pick only one thing, I would say the discovery of penicillin, which paved the way for antibiotic discovery and development.
Who’s your favorite scientist of all time? Another tough one! If I had to pick just one … I would pick Sir Isaac Newton. His work resulted in the foundation for many basic principles in science. Without Newton, where would we be today?
What quote do you live by? “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” Scientists answer tough questions – oftentimes with no clear answer, and with a lot of failures along the way. I had this saying on my desk in graduate school, and even to this day I look at that to help ground myself.
If you could time travel, would you go to the past or future? I would go in the future – I would love to see what the future holds for us and be able to have that wholistic understanding of how all of the things we are working on today will impact the future. It also wouldn’t hurt knowing some of the winning lotto numbers, too!
What’s your advice for our young women in STEM? Do what you love. Find a subject area that you’re interested in. Having passion and interest will help you persist through the toughest of times and re-energize you in the best of times. Everyone will have their own path and it may not always be clear or a straight line, but believe in yourself and you will go far.
At what age did you fall in love with science? In elementary school, it was more a fear of not doing math and science.
What’s your best memory of science as a child? My father worked for Boeing, the plane manufacturer, and also chaired the Science and Technology tent at our county fair, in Fairfax County, Virginia.
I volunteered every year helping fairgoers fold and fly paper airplanes in competitions at the Boeing booth. You could win a poster of Hawaii if you flew your plane through the smallest hoop.
Pro tip: The best airplane is actually two rings of paper (one at each end) attached to a straw.
What’s your favorite element? Platinum, because the chemistry is clean and straightforward, it has a pretty isotope pattern in the mass spectrometer and plays a crucial role in cancer therapeutics.
What do you think is the most impactful scientific invention to date? I’ll say the smallpox vaccine. It’s an exciting time for vaccines right now, especially with the move to lipid nanoparticles as excipients, because it means many new users of the charged aerosol detector, my favorite detector.
Who’s your favorite scientist of all time? I’m a fan of Rosalind Franklin, whose x-ray crystallography revealed the structures of DNA and RNA. We had a slightly crazy biology professor at Northwestern who taught us to use Bessel functions to determine the double helix structure from her diffraction patterns.
I also admire Frank Steiner, whose beautifully prepared and delivered scientific presentations eloquently communicate HPLC science to audiences the world over.
And I can’t help but marvel at my 7-year-old, who uses constant, spontaneous, surprising experimentation to explore the world.
What quote do you live by? “My time is now.” Because I’m not dead yet.
If you could time travel, would you go to the past or future? I would prefer to visit the future, because you already know what happened in the past, but not in the future. You could come back with some great stock tips and find a topic for the next killer HPLC application note.
What’s your advice for our young women in STEM? Sometimes, it’s exhausting to be in a room where you’re one of only a few women. Probably no one else in that room understands, but it’s real. So give yourself a break and don’t fight every battle, try to avoid every mistake, or take every setback personally. You’re doing a good job just showing up.
At what age did you fall in love with science? I fell in love with science when I was just a wee-one in elementary school. The experiment was making the volcano with vinegar and baking soda. I was (and still am!) mesmerized by the gas bubbles forming. And then my parents gifted me a little chemistry kit shortly after, and the rest is history!
What’s your best memory of science as a child? Hmm, well I have lots of good memories but my favorite one is when I used to check the pH of our pool. I always volunteered to check the pH of our water and had so much fun with the test kit. The basic indicators were my favorite – because I love purple. I’m sure we went through those solutions real fast.
What’s your favorite element? I’m a HUGE fan of the first row redox-active transition metals but my favorite element is copper.
I worked with Cu, Zn, Fe, Ni and Co in graduate school and fell in love with the chemistry of copper — in particular with the role this essential metal plays in our enzymes like superoxide dismutase and brain function. We have SO MUCH to learn about the role of transition metals and the progression of neurogenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
What do you think is the most impactful scientific invention to date? I’d say the invention of the microscope was a major game-changer for all of science and humanity.
Who’s your favorite scientist of all time? Marie Curie is my favorite scientist of all time! I can’t even begin to imagine all the haters and nay-sayers she encountered as a woman in science during that time in history. She discovered two elements and won two Nobel Prizes (one in chemistry and another in physics) in her lifetime. And then she likely died from long-term exposure to radiation … truly full circle. I say she took one for the team and I bet if she could, she’d do it all over again knowing the outcome.
What quote do you live by? “Health is wealth!”
If you could time travel, would you go to the past or future? I’d go waaaaaaay back to the time before any human species existed here on Earth. Can you imagine how vivid, colorful and full of diversity the planet was back then? I think about it all the time.
What’s your advice for our young women in STEM? Be curious. Be bold. And be YOU, unapologetically.
I love this!!!!! All have such good advice for young women in STEM. 💌 Also... going to have to try that paper plane trick...
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