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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

Do you know of a great woman in engineering that should be recognized? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add her to the blog. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

Woman of the Week - Françoise Barré-Sinoussi

Posted March 21, 2017 9:27 AM by lmno24

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi is a French virologist who has performed significant work in the identification of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the cause of AIDS.

She identifies herself as a scientist-activist, as she has not only discovered the disease, but she is also committed to fighting for the rights of the patients with the disease and fighting against the spread.

She was born in France in 1947, and from the start, always took an interest in the natural world.

In 1966, she entered the University of Paris to study natural science. During her studies, she was eager to gain lab experience. She began as a volunteer.

Jean-Claude Chermann, who recruited her to the lab, was studying the relationship between retroviruses and cancers in mice and proposed to her a PhD project to study the retroviral activity of a synthetic molecule (HPA23) in leukemia induced by the Friend virus in mice. Tests proved effective and Barré-Sinoussi earned her PhD in 1974.

She then spent a year on a post-doctoral project at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. before returning to France to get married and to take up the offer of a research position in Chermann's laboratory in Paris working in the department led, at the time, by Professor Luc Montagnier. This research group continued to study the link between retroviruses and cancers, as by this time oncogenes were attracting more attention. They were one of a few groups who studied this.

She also joined the Pasteur Institute in Paris in the early 1970s. AIDS started to appear in the 1980s around the world, including in France. The Institut Pasteur team was approached by a group of French clinicians to investigate whether this new disease could be caused by a retrovirus.

She first observed evidence of reverse transcriptase activity in a culture of infected lymph node tissue from a patient. As this activity declined over time, the addition of fresh lymphocytes in the culture would make it reappear.

The retrovirus they had discovered was later named human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

After visiting Africa as part of a World Health Organisation workshop in 1985, Barré-Sinoussi became determined to fight for her scientific cause on a global scale, starting collaborative efforts, and scientific exchanges with African and Asian countries.

She has had many recent research contributions to various aspects of the adaptive immune response to viral infection, the role of innate immune defenses of the host in controlling HIV/AIDS, factors involved in mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and characteristics that allow a small percentage of HIV-positive individuals.

She has co-authored hundreds of scientific publications, has participated in over 250 international conferences, and has trained many young researchers.

In 2006, Barré-Sinoussi was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame. She has also received numerous other awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. She shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Luc Montagnier for their co-discovery of HIV, and with Harald zur Hausen, who discovered the viral cause of cervical cancer that led to the development of the HPV vaccine.

In 2009, she wrote an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI in protest over his statements that condoms are ineffective in the AIDS crisis. In addition to her scientific work, she remains a strong voice for health and ending shame associated with the disease, as well as helping to educate people about preventing the spread.


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Woman of the Week – Elizabeth Arden

Posted March 13, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

You probably recall Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door perfume as a signature scent in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the woman behind the iconic perfume made great strides in terms of the science and innovation behind modern cosmetics.

Arden was born in 1878 in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada. Her parents had emigrated to Canada from Cornwall, United Kingdom in the 1870s. Her father, William Graham, was Scottish and her mother, Susan, was Cornish and had arranged for a wealthy aunt in Cornwall to pay for her children's education. Her parents encouraged nursing school, but she later dropped out. But, that is where her interest in cosmetics began; she took a fascination with the creams and lotions used to treat burns.

She moved to New York City with her brother and took a job as a bookkeeper for the E. R. Squibb Pharmaceuticals Company. While there, Arden spent hours in their lab, learning about skincare. Once she gained some experience, she opened a business with Elizabeth Hubbard, another culturist. Arden’s birth name, Florence Nightingale Graham was too long and pricey to put on a salon sign, so they decided upon a pen name of Elizabeth Arden. A nearby farm held the Arden namesake, which she liked, and bestowed it upon the Red Door salon, a name associated with her legacy to this day.

During her time, makeup was more associated with prostitutes than with respectable women. But she wanted to change that. Arden devised a marketing campaign to change the public's view of beauty products, and give it more of a lady-like image. The film industry also began to incorporate the close-up more frequently, which helped society begin to accept the use of cosmetic products.

Arden collaborated with A. Fabian Swanson, a chemist, to create a “fluffy” face cream. The success of the cream, called Venetian Cream Amoretta, and corresponding lotion, named Arden Skin Tonic, led to a long-lasting business relationship. Arden also introduced modern eye makeup to the United States. Her approach to skin scare as a scientist and health-based tactic helped her career take off. Many saw her products as a way to preserve youth and to take care of oneself. Her tactics revolutionized cosmetics, bringing a scientific approach to the formulations as well to prevent wrinkles and other things that happen to skin as you age.

She learned from people in Parisian beauty salons how to formulate rouges and tinted powders, which became a staple in her namesake collection.

By 1915, Arden's brand was expanding and she began to make sales on the international market. In 1922, she established a Parisian salon; and later opened businesses in South America and Australia as well. By the 1930s, the company was doing so well that it even managed to flourish during the Great Depression, bringing in more than $4 million a year.

In her salons and through her marketing campaigns, Arden stressed teaching women how to apply makeup to look natural, but emphasized it as a way to tie together a look. She also developed the first travel-size beauty products, and was the first in the cosmetics business to train and send out a team of traveling demonstrators and saleswomen. Her signature red lipstick became the perfect accessory for women serving in the armed forces in World War II, as it coordinated with the uniforms.

Her approach was never to mask one’s natural beauty, but instead preserve it and take care of it. She promoted the idea of “Total Beauty” – to take care of your skin, diet, fitness and mind. It was the idea of putting your best self forward and inspiring self confidence that had rarely been seen before her time and likely attributed to her success.

Her list of beauty innovations is lengthy. Her entrepreneurial spirit is inspiring. Though to some cosmetics and beauty products are frivolous, her approach is for reasons we can’t argue – that doing something for yourself is important.


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Woman of the Week – Mary Anning

Posted March 06, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Mary Anning was an English fossil collector, dealer, and paleontologist who became known for important finds she made in Jurassic marine fossil beds in the cliffs along the English Channel at Lyme Regis in the county of Dorset in Southwest England.

Her findings contributed to important changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.

Anning was born in Lyme Regis in Dorset, England. Her father, Richard Anning, was a cabinetmaker who supplemented his income by mining the coastal cliff-side fossil beds near the town, and selling his finds to tourists. This eventually sparked his daughter’s interest, mostly because her father took her and her siblings along to search for fossils.

By the late 18th century, Lyme Regis had become a popular seaside resort and increasing numbers of wealthy and middle class tourists were arriving there. Even before Mary's time, locals supplemented their income by selling what were called "curios" to tourists. These were fossils with colorful local names such as "snake-stones" (ammonites), "devil's fingers" (belemnites), and "verteberries" (vertebrae), to which were sometimes attributed medicinal and mystical properties. Fossil collecting was trendy in the late 18th and early 19th century, at first as a pastime, but gradually transforming into a science as the importance of fossils to geology and biology was understood.

Many of these fossils were found along the coastal cliffs around Lyme Regis, part of a geological formation known as the Blue Lias. This consists of alternating layers of limestone and shale, laid down as sediment on a shallow seabed early in the Jurassic period. It was one of the most fruitful areas to find fossils, but also a very dangerous one. In winter, which also happened to be the best time to collect, rain caused severe landslides. Those landslides also proved helpful, though dangerous, as they exposed new fossils.

Their father, Richard, often took Mary and her brother Joseph on fossil-hunting expeditions to make more money for the family. They offered their discoveries for sale to tourists on a table outside their home. This was a difficult time for England's poor; the French Revolutionary Wars, and the Napoleonic Wars that followed, caused food shortages. The price of wheat almost tripled between 1792 and 1812, but wages for the working class remained almost unchanged. Money struggles caused political unrest and some rioting.

Her family did encounter some struggles of their own as well. They were not followers of the Church of England and faced much discrimination because of this. When her father got sick, they were offered no help form the community and he left them with little money, forcing the family to apply for parish relief, which was challenging to get due to their beliefs.

The family continued collecting and selling fossils together, and set up a table of curiosities near the coach stop at a local inn.

Anning has been credited with the first discovery of ichthyosaur fossils, or at least the first version to be known by scientists. This specimen was probably discovered sometime between 1809 and 1811, when she was only 10 to 12 years old. And while Mary did find the majority of the remains, her brother had discovered part of the beast a year prior. In fact, the entire Anning family was involved in fossil hunting, but her skill and dedication produced many remarkable finds and thus provided the now fatherless family with a means of income. The fossils that they continued to find after her father’s death became sought after not only by museums and scientists, but by European nobles, many of whom had substantial private collections of fossils and other "curiosities."

But perhaps her most important find, from a scientific point of view, was her discovery of the first plesiosaur. The famous French anatomist, Georges Cuvier, doubted the validity of the specimen when he first examined a detailed drawing. Once Cuvier realized that this was a genuine find, the family’s fossil searching became legitimate and they soon rose up as respected fossilists in the eyes of the scientific community.

In spite of this recognition, the majority of her finds ended up in museums and personal collections without credit being given. As time passed, Anning and her family were forgotten by the scientific community and most historians, due to the lack of appropriate documentation of her special skills. The family’s social class contributed to this, as well as the fact that she was a young, uneducated girl.

Many scientists of the day could not believe that a young woman from such a deprived background could possess the knowledge and skills that she seemed to display, according to her biography.


1 comments; last comment on 03/08/2017
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Women of NASA to Be Immortalized — As Lego Figurines

Posted March 02, 2017 1:21 PM by lmno24

Swaying from our typical posts highlighting a specific woman of note - I just had to share this news about some new Lego collectables being released soon.

The toy company announced that five notable women of NASA will be soon hit shelves, in Lego form.

Many of them are women you've read about on this blog, and the others you will someday soon!

Photo Credit (for both photos):

The collection will include:

- Mathematician Katherine Johnson, who was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work that contributed to Apollo 11's moon landing.

- Computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, who was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work that contributed to Apollo 11's moon landing.

- Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space

- Nancy Grace Roman, who served as NASA's chief astronomer played a key role in making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality.

- Astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space.

Science writer Maia Weinstock submitted the idea to the Lego Ideas competition.

The Women of NASA featured in the Lego set are (left to right): computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, mathematician Katherine Johnson, astronaut Sally Ride, astronaut Mae Jemison and astronomer Nancy Grace Roman.


5 comments; last comment on 03/07/2017
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Woman of the Week – Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Posted February 27, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was an English physician and suffragette, the first woman to qualify in Britain as a physician and surgeon.

Her resume is pretty impressive. She was the co-founder of the first hospital staffed by women, the first dean of a British medical school, the first female doctor of medicine in France, the first woman in Britain to be elected to a school board and, as Mayor of Aldeburgh, the first female mayor and magistrate in Britain.

She was the second of eleven children, many of which went on to pursue many entrepreneurial projects and various business ventures.

As a child, there was no school in the town the family lived in. Anderson’s mother taught her the “three Rs.” When she and her sister were teens, they were sent to a boarding school. They learned many languages and reading skills, but Anderson complained later in life that the school lacked in science and math.

She spent the next nine years tending to domestic duties, but she continued to study Latin and arithmetic and also read a lot. In 1854, when she was eighteen, she and her sister went on a long visit to see friends in Gateshead where she met Emily Davies, the early feminist and future co-founder of Girton College, Cambridge. Davies became somewhat of a mentor to Anderson.

In 1858, she read about Elizabeth Blackwell, the first American female doctor. When Blackwell visited the UK, a visit was arranged through the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women. It is said that during a visit to Alde House around 1860, one evening while sitting by the fireside, Garrett and Davies selected careers for advancing the frontiers of women's rights.

She began her medical career as a nurse in August of 1860. She unsuccessfully attempted to enroll in the hospital's Medical School but was allowed to attend private tuition in Latin, Greek and materia medica with the hospital's apothecary, while continuing her work as a nurse. She also studied anatomy and physiology three evenings a week. Eventually she was allowed into the dissecting room and the chemistry lectures. Gradually, she became an unwelcome presence among the male students, who in 1861 presented a memorial to the school against her admittance as a fellow student, despite the support she had from the administration. She was obliged to leave the Middlesex Hospital but she did so with an honors certificate in chemistry and materia medica. She then applied to several medical schools, including Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and the Royal College of Surgeons, all of which refused her admittance.

In 1865, she finally took her exam and obtained a license (LSA) from the Society of Apothecaries to practice medicine, the first woman qualified in Britain to do so. She also passed the exam with the highest marks. The Society of Apothecaries immediately amended its regulations to prevent other women obtaining a license meaning that Anderson’s friend, Sophia Jex-Blake however could not follow this same path. The new rule disallowed privately educated women to be eligible for examination.

Despite her new credentials, she had trouble finding work at a hospital. Instead, she decided to open her own practice. At first, she had few patients, but the practice eventually grew. She even opened an outpatient center that allowed poor women to seek medical services from a practitioner of their own gender.

During a cholera outbreak in 1865, her established practice began to see a large surge of patients, as many put their biases aside to seek medical service during this time.

For the rest of her career, she continued work in many hospitals. She finally gained some credibility, likely after her work during the cholera outbreak. She had heard that the Dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Sorbonne, Paris was in favor of admitting women as medical students, Garrett studied French so that she could apply for a medical degree, which she obtained in 1870 after some difficulty.

Anderson was also active in the women's suffrage movement. In 1866, she presented petitions signed by more than 1,500 asking that female heads of household be given the right to vote. That year, Anderson joined the first British Women's Suffrage Committee. She was not as active as her sister, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, though she became a member of the Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage in 1889. After her husband's death in 1907, she became more active. As mayor of Aldeburgh, she gave speeches for suffrage, before the increasing militant activity in the movement led to her withdrawal in 1911. Her daughter Louisa, also a physician, was more active and more militant, spending time in prison in 1912 for her suffrage activities.


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