5 Famous Women in STEM

Some of the greatest discoveries in science, technology, engineering, and math have been woman driven. From overseeing space missions to pioneering the internet of today, these five inspiring women have made significant waves in STEM

by Rachel Johnson | 26 Oct, 2021

Susan Solomon is well-known for her career at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is a respected leader in atmospheric science. In the 1980s, Solomon and her colleagues were the first to pinpoint the cause of the Antarctic ozone hole – chlorofluorocarbons. Solomon is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences, and the French Academy of Sciences and, in 2007, her Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Keep the faith. The most amazing things in life tend to happen right at the moment you’re about to give up hope.

Susan Solomon, Senior Scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 

Interested in learning more about Solomon’s work to fight climate change? Then make sure to read Solomon’s award-winning report, Climate Change 2007 – The Physical Science Basis: Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC

Colombian planetary geologist Adriana Ocampo is well-known for her contributions to better understanding the impacts of the Chicxulub crater, which struck Earth over 65 million years ago and caused the extinction of dinosaurs. Ocampo was the first scientist to discern that the surface of the crater is merely a ring of sinkholes. Ocampo is now a Science Program Manager at NASA and has overseen missions to Pluto, Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury. She even has an asteroid named after her!

You need perseverance to realise your dreams. 

Adriana Ocampo, Planetary Geologist and Science Program Manager at NASA

To learn more about Ocampo’s career beginnings, make sure to pick up a copy of Lorraine Jean Hopping’s biography, Space Rocks: The Story of Planetary Geologist Adriana Ocampo

Born in 1975 in Tehran, Iran, merely years before the start of the Iranian Revolution, Pardis Sabeti’s family fled to the US when she was just a young girl. Passionate about math and science, Sabeti graduated with a degree in biology from MIT, went on to become a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, and, in 2006, Sabeti became the third woman to graduate summa cum laude with a Doctor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. While working with her research group in 2014, Sabeti discovered how to sequence the Ebola genome

Let us not let the world be defined by the destruction wrought by one virus but illuminated by billions of hearts and minds working in unity.

Pardis Sabeti, Geneticist who sequenced the Ebola genome

Want to learn more about this incredible woman and her work? Check out her 2015 TED Talk,How we’ll fight the next deadly virus.” 

After graduating from MIT during a time when very few women attended, Radia Perlman’s career-defining moment came in the 1980s while working for Digital Equipment Corporation. She developed a new algorithm, the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), that became fundamental in the design of computer network bridges and made the internet of today feasible. Today, Perlman works for Dell and continues to spread her knowledge to make the world a better place.  

I try to design things that someone like myself would like to use, which is that it just works, and you don’t have to think about it at all.

Radia Perlman, Computer Programmer and Network Engineer 

Looking to geek out over the internet? Perlman’s textbook Interconnections: Bridges, Routers, Switches, and Internetworking Protocols is a great start to gain a better understanding of how network protocols work. 

Born in 1918 in West Virginia, Katherine Johnson was one of the first African-American women to work as a scientist at NASA. Over a 33-year career, Johnson’s work contributed to successful missions including those of Alan Shepard (the first American in space) and John Glenn (the first American in orbit). After a spectacular career, Johnson passed away in 2020 at the age of 101. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2021. 

Like what you do, and then you will do your best.

Katherine Johnson, Mathematician and NASA Space Scientist

To hear more of Johnson’s inspiring story, check out the biographical drama film Hidden Figures

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