10 Women In STEM To Know About For Women’s History Month 2019
Despite its reputation as a male-dominated field, STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — is filled with inspirational women who are putting in the work to change the world as we speak. Some of them are starting young, others are breaking boundaries further through their careers, but all of them are making new discoveries and chasing the future. Women's History Month is often a time to look at the women of the past who shook things up, but it's also a great opportunity to look forwards — and these women are going to be among the ones history remembers.
Women in STEM need good role models and mentors; it's science. Research by Microsoft found that the amount of girls interested in science doubles when female STEM role models exist in their lives — because those figures help them imagine the realities of a STEM career kicking ass and taking names, whether it's in a lab, in space or out in the field. In 2019, every area of STEM research and practice has outstanding women setting new standards for the next generation. From quantum computing to sanitation, electrical engineering to the stars, these are ten women worldwide who are changing the world right now — or, in one case, building a new world on another planet.
1. Yari Golden-Castaño
Yari Golden-Castaño is one of the 100 finalists for the Mars One project, which aims to select the first 24 settlers on Mars. Golden-Castaño herself is an MIT engineer specializing in laser communication, the main technique Mars settlers will use to reach Earth once a colony is formed.
“I’m not a fool, I understand the risks of landing and not landing, but it’s so worth it. It’s part of the mission," she told Boston University's Daily Free Press in 2018. The private space flight will hopefully launch for Mars in 2031, and if selected, Golden-Castaño — and her husband Daniel, also a finalist — will spend the remainder of her life on Mars. Changing our world and other planets.
2. Ana Humphrey
In 2019, Ana Humphrey became the first Latinx winner of the Regeneron Science Talent Search in 20 years, a contest which involves high school seniors across the U.S. and has a top prize of $250,000. Humphrey, who's only 18, snagged the top spot for her work on discovering exoplanets, small planets that may have escaped the view of the Earth's telescopes. She came up with a mathematical modeling system that figured out where exoplants may likely be hiding, and walked away with one of the biggest prizes for young scientists worldwide.
3. Dr. Mirjana Povic
Dr. Mirjana Povic is one of the world's most groundbreaking astrophysicists — for her work on earth as well as among the stars. Working at the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute, she won Nature Research’s Inspiring Science Award in 2018 for her work building STEM networks among high school-aged girls in Ethopia. "My dream is to create an African network of women working in astronomy and space sciences to make visible, unite, and empower women in our field," she told Nature.
4. Dr. Prineha Narang
Dr. Prineha Narang was one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 scientists in 2018, and she may change the way in which our mobile phones and satellites communicate. An associate professor at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, she's also been one of MIT Technology Review's top innovators under age 35, and it's all down to her work on quantum engineered materials. Quantum materials and information processing at this tiny level may lead to entirely new technologies in the future.
5. Dr. Lam Sze Mun
L'Oreal and UNESCO's Women In Science Fellowships are always a hotbed of amazing female talent, and 2018 was no exception. Dr. Lam Sze Mun, one of three Fellows in Malaysia, particularly stood out for her work on techniques that can clean dirty water while also using it to create energy. "From just 400ml of wastewater, I can power a ten-thousand milli-ampere power bank – isn't that great?” she told Tatler Malaysia.
6. Dr. Priscilla Kolibea Mante
Dr. Priscilla Kolibea Mante is one of an elite club: the top 15 L'Oreal-UNESCO Fellows recognized as "International Rising Talents" in 2019. She researches new plant-based therapies to treat epilepsy, depression, and anxiety, and is focussing on a compound from a flowering plant traditionally used in West Africa for the treatment of malaria.
“The world will make room for us”, she told UNESCO. “The more women push for senior roles, the harder it will be to ignore them.”
7. Dr. Natasha Hurley-Walker
Dr. Natasha Hurley-Walker was one of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's top five scientists for 2018, for her pioneering work mapping the entirety of the sky above Southern Australia. Hurley-Walker mans the telescopes at the (very remote) International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University, and is using her radio telescope to discover important new data about faraway galaxies.
"It’s fantastic to build an instrument in such a natural environment; you see wildlife, wildflowers, and some unbelievable skies, both during the day and at night," she told the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.
8. Dr. Ozak Esu
Dr. Ozak Esu won the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year in 2017, and was one of the Telegraph's Top 50 Women Under 35 in Engineering in the UK. Originally hailing from Nigeria, she was motivated by the issues with Nigeria's energy supply, graduated from a UK university and now designs engineering projects worldwide.
9. Mehaa Amirthalingam
Mehaa Amirthalingam was 2018 runner-up for Discovery Education 3M's Young Scientist Lab, and her design, for a non-electric toilet flushing system that combines fresh and recycled water to increase water usage efficiency, caught attention worldwide; she explained to the Malala Fund that her invention is called “Arya” after Aryabhatta, the first Indian astronomer and mathematician.
“I knew I had to find a solution to this problem because every function in the human body relies on water, making this is an issue that affects everyone, everywhere," she told Amy Poehler's Smart Girls. She now plans to take Arya global and help with water shortages worldwide.
10. Professor Karen Uhlenbeck
In 2019, Professor Karen Uhlenbeck became the first female winner of the Abel Prize, a prize awarded by the King of Norway for outstanding mathematicians. Uhlenbeck won for her pioneering work on gauge theory and minimal surfaces, like those of bubbles. The chair of the prize committee told the BBC that her work had "dramatically changed the mathematical landscape." Uhlenbeck is a trailblazer in many ways; New Scientist pointed out that she was the first woman since 1932 to give the plenary lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 1990, and has been a vocal critic of the male-dominated world of mathematics. She's also won the National Medal of Science and the American Mathematical Society’s Leroy P Steel Prize.
Memorize these names, because you're going to be hearing them in the future. No matter what area of STEM you love, there's a woman in it breaking boundaries and transforming the way we understand the world.
Correction: This article was updated on March 20 to reflect the last time there was a Latinx winner of the Regeneron Science Talent Search.