12 Amazing Female Scientists of the 21st Century

Gender inequality remains prevalent in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields, in which women are underrepresented. As a minority, scientific contributions by women are often underappreciated. Thus, in commemoration of International Women’s Day, here are 12 prominent women in science worth celebrating.


Jennifer Doudna

Geneticist and professor of chemistry, molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley

Doudna co-invented CRISPR-Cas9, a new technological method of genetic engineering. The genome editing tool increases the precision of genetical manipulation during the addition and removal of genes. Applications of the innovation include the treatment of genetic diseases such as cancer and the prospect of “designer babies”.


Animal research was successful as two monkeys were born healthy but with specific genetic mutations intentionally induced through technology. As the genetic modification of human embryos remains controversial, Doudna reminds the scientific community to prioritise the ethics and safety of technological advancements.

See more: https://www.ted.com/talks/jennifer_doudna_we_can_now_edit_our_dna_but_let_s_do_it_wisely­­


Debbie Sterling

Inventor, Founder and CEO of Goldieblox

Source: Inc.com

Sterling was initially exposed to STEM careers in college. As an engineer herself, she observed the lack of females in these disciplines. In response to the gender difference, she created Goldieblox: a company with products and services which challenge gender stereotypes and empower young girls to follow their dreams.


Goldieblox is guided by the principle of “disrupting the pink aisle in toy stores”. The business reflects her personal experiences as a woman in science and encourages female participation in engineering and related professions.

See more: http://ed.ted.com/on/EpAqFHAm#watch


Cynthia Kenyon

Biochemist and Geneticist

Source: The Guardian

Kenyon, the project manager of Google’s Calico project, aims to develop drugs which slow the aging process. Her research into aging focuses on the influence of genetics on age-related diseases such as cancer and heart failure. She recommends preventing the onset of age-related diseases, by eliminating the aspect of aging itself.

She discovered a genetic mutation in roundworms (C. elegans) which increases lifespans of the species by 65%. Her lab is working on replicating these gene mutations. Current animal research has been successful in worms, mice, rats, and monkeys. Kenyon is hopeful to apply her research to humans and increase life expectancy rates. With additional research, increased longevity and immortality may be realities of the future.

See more: https://www.ted.com/talks/cynthia_kenyon_experiments_that_hint_of_longer_lives


Sara Seager

Astrophysicist and Planetary Scientist

Source: MIT

With the hope of finding another inhabitable planet like Earth, Seager has discovered 715 new exoplanets: planets which orbit a star outside of the solar system. Her scientific research revolves around the theory, computation, and data analyses of these planets.

By identifying planets with atmospheres similar to that of Earth in terms of composition and temperature, survival on another life-sustaining planet may be possible.

See more: http://www.saraseager.com/events/


Lucianne Walkowicz

Similar to Seager’s work, Walkowicz studies the stars which exoplanets orbit. She works with data from NASA’s Kepler Mission. Named after astronomer Johannes Kepler, the mission refers to the launch of a space observatory by NASA to discover Earth-sized planets orbiting stars other than the Sun.

Walkowicz studies the effect of stellar radiation on the inhabitability of planets. According to the scientist, “searching for habitable worlds and life in the universe really makes me value our home, Planet Earth.” She is also the leader in a project, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which will scan the sky every night for a duration of 10 years to serve as a cosmic record of the Universe.

See more: https://www.ted.com/talks/lucianne_walkowicz_finding_planets_around_other_stars?language=en


Katrin Amunts


Source: Alchetron

Amunts is leading a team of researchers in constructing the most detailed 3D model of the human brain known as Bigbrain and redefined the traditional maps. The model is composed of more than 7,4000 scanned sections of brain regions which were re-assembled into a 3D model. Thus, the resolution is finer than current brain imaging techniques like MRI scans, although further improvements in resolution are attainable given further technological advancements.

The model will assist scientists in determining the localisation of functionality in cerebral regions specifically in facilitating an understanding of the organisation of the brain in relation to behaviour. Therefore science may establish the neurological origins of cognition, language, emotions, and other mental processes in addition to cerebral abnormalities like brain damage and Alzheimer’s disease.


Nina Tandon

Biomedical engineer, CEO and Co Founder of EpiBone

Source: Inc.com

Tandon founded EpiBone which grows bone from stem cell research, in order to decrease the risks of bone grafting: a surgical procedure which repairs bone defects by transplanting bone tissue in replacement of damaged bones and joints or involves the growth of bones. However, the threat of infection and rejection of grafts arises from the patient’s other bone tissue or dead donor tissue.


As such, EpiBone solely uses the stem cells of the patient’s fat cells and grows them into customised bone cells. This process reduces the recovery duration and risk of rejection, as the tissue is from the patient themselves. Tandon emphasises the role of biology in medical research and advancing technology.


Katherine Freese

Theoretical Astrophysicist

Freese is a pioneer in dark matter research and developed a revolutionary theory about a kind of star – dark stars. The universe comprises of atoms, dark matter, and dark energy. Dark matter is a type of mass which is invisible and therefore unobservable, as it does not interact with light in any form – emit, absorb, or reflect it.

Freese proposed the idea that dark stars, a new type of fundamental particle, is powered by dark matter rather than nuclear fusion. She likens her scientific theories to the breakthrough that the world is round, not flat: a paradigm shift. If Freese successfully observes a dark star in the universe, it will be the first direct observation of dark matter in history. Globally, teams of scientists are fighting against time to prove the existence of the dark matter particle.

See more:



Cori Bargmann


Bargmann studies the role of neurons and genes in behaviour. Her current research is on the manipulation of genes in roundworms and the effect of genetic changes in observed behavioural patterns. As the genes in the species resemble those in mammals, the generalisability of findings may be possible from animal to human research.

Furthermore, Bargmann also developed a Brain Research Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative which aims to identify the causes of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Autism by examining brain functions and behaviour.


Jennifer Eberhardt

Social psychologist


Eberhardt collaborates with the community and police in order to improve relations between the groups. Her research focuses on judgement, racial profiling, and biases in relation to crime. By studying these topics, law enforcement may gain insight into adopting better policies and issues like police brutality or stereotyping crimes and behavioural patterns based on race or other individual differences may be minimised. Building trust between the police and population which they serve will further increase the solidarity of society.


Holley Moyes

Anthropological archaeologist

Source: Twitter

Moyes studies early civilizations like the Maya civilization: the indigenous people of Mesoamerica.  By examining the culture of the ancient people through rituals and artifacts, she hopes to preserve the Mayan culture and discover the stories of the civilization. The archaeologist attempts to understand the decision-making process of the civilization through the implications of their behaviour.

For instance, Moyes has an interest in the human sacrifices in caves. She developed a theory about the large human sacrifices in caves to the Mayan God in response to droughts in the region. From visiting over 100 caves in Central America and studying tools, sacrificial remains, pottery and the ideology of the Mayans, Moyes urges people to remember history and learn from it.


Dr. Betty Sim Kim Lee                     

Molecular Biologist and Leading Researcher at Sanaria

Malaria remains a problematic health concern, especially in countries within Africa. Approximately 200 million people suffer from the illness and 600,000 deaths occur annually. Previously, there was no vaccine, which could prevent cases of malaria.

Lee leads a group of researchers who developed the PfSPZ vaccine, which protects people from malaria. Research from Sanaria, a biotechnology company, determined that the vaccine was 100% effective in clinical trials. Despite this groundbreaking innovation in eradicating malaria, manufacturing the vaccine is complicated as it is time consuming and requires highly trained scientists. Thus, the company is pursuing crowd-funding options to build a robot that can produce the vaccinations.

See more: http://www.bfm.my/betty-sim-kim-lee-malaria-vaccine-pfspz


This list is not representative of all the efforts of women who have contributed immensely to the field of science, which is a traditionally male dominated industry. Scientific innovations should be recognised regardless of sex. By further increasing the diversity within the labour force, both women and men can be acknowledged for their scientific achievements.

By Sophie Byfield


Source of featured image: University of California television

West Malaysian spirit of magniloquence, periphrasis and procrastination. I have half a mind...

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