Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Jennifer A. Doudna

Jennifer A. Doudna Ph.D. is a Professor of Chemistry and of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. She has been an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1997. She earned her B.A. in Chemistry from Pomona College and her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Harvard University on ribozymes under the mentorship of Jack W. Szostak. She did her postdoctoral work with Thomas Cech at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

While in the Szostak lab, she reengineered the self-splicing Group I catalytic intron into a true catalytic ribozyme that would copy RNA templates. Recognizing the limitations of not being able see the molecular mechanisms of the ribozymes. She started work to crystallize and solve the three-dimensional structure of the Tetrahymena Group I ribozyme in 1991 in the Cech Lab and continued while she started her professorship at Yale University in 1994. 

While the group was able to grow high-quality crystals, they struggled with the phase problem due to unspecific binding of the metal ions. One of her early graduate students and later her husband, Jamie Cate decided to soak the crystals in osmium hexamine to imitate magnesium. Using this strategy, they were able to solve the structure, the second solved folded RNA structure since tRNA. The magnesium ions would cluster at the center of the ribozyme and would serve as a core for RNA folding similar to that of a hydrophobic core of a protein.

Jennifer was promoted to be the Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale in 2000. In 2002, she accepted a faculty position at University of California, Berkeley as a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology so that she would be closer to family and the synchrotron at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. This initial work to solve large RNA structures lead to further structural studies on the HDV ribozyme, the IRES, and protein-RNA complexes like the Signal recognition particle. Her lab now focuses on obtaining a mechanistic understanding of biological processes involving RNA.

This work is divided over three major areas, the CRISPR system, RNA interference, and translational control via MicroRNAs. She was a Searle Scholar and received the 1999 NAS Award for Initiatives in Research and the 2000 Alan T. Waterman Award. She has received several awards and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2002 and the Institute of Medicine in 2010.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Louise Hammarström

Louise (Lovisa) Katarina Hammarström (born 25 May 1849 - 5 November 1917), was a Swedish chemist. She was the first formally trained and educated Swedish chemist of her gender.

Louise Hammarström was the daughter of a vicar. Orphaned at an early age, she grew up at an Ironworks in Dalarna, in central Sweden, where she became interested in chemical substances. She studied chemistry by private lessons, and was in 1875 employed at the laboratory of engineer Werner Cronquist in Stockholm, were she was active as an assistant in 1876-1881. She was then active as mineral chemist at the Ironworks of Bångbro (1881–87), Fagersta (1887–91) and Schisshyttan (1891–93). In 1893, she opened her own laboratory, in which she was primarily focused on minerals and geological studies.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Women in Chemistry: Progress Made, but Obstacles Remain

The world is in the midst of the International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC 2011), a global “celebration of the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well-being of humankind.” An initiative of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the year-long celebration involves chemical societies, academies and institutions worldwide and is aimed at promoting international scientific collaboration. In support of IYC 2011, close to 100 countries registered more than 600 events and 1,200 activities.

The year also is focusing on the contributions of women to chemistry as it coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize awarded to Madame Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Curie also shared a Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband Pierre Curie and scientist Henri Becquerel.

Gains and challenges experienced by several SLAS members and their colleagues are representative of how women have moved up the career ladder in chemistry over the years. “In pursuit of female chemists,” a commentary published in the August 18 issue of the journal Nature—as well as feedback from SLAS members—suggests that while some progress has been made, there is still much work to be done.

In the Nature commentary, Carol Robinson of the University of Oxford, U.K., notes, “The decline from chemistry Ph.D.s (46% women) to professorships (just 6%) is steeper than in other disciplines, including physics and engineering.” Equally disappointing, a recent survey concluded that “one-quarter of all 14-years-olds in the United Kingdom confuse Marie Curie with pop singer Mariah Carey.” Robinson suggests a need for new role models for today’s women, noting that “chemistry… has a macho culture in which getting to the finish line first is more important than how you get there.” In addition, she states, “Too often, female scientists shy away from responsible roles or don’t have sufficient confidence or aspirations.”

Some of the same themes—pressure on women to excel, different leadership styles and the need to bring more women into the discipline—were also cited by SLAS members before the Nature commentary’s publication. These members had much to say about some of the key issues facing women in chemistry today. They also suggested solutions.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Women chemists

Leslie Barnett
Irina Beletskaya
Ruth R. Benerito
Helen M. Berman
Carolyn R. Bertozzi
Hazel Bishop
Rachel Fuller Brown

Emma P. Carr
Mildred Cohn
Marie Curie

Mary Peters Fieser
Rosalind Franklin
Helen Murray Free
Elizabeth Fulhame

Louise Giblin
Mary L. Good

Anna J. Harrison
Dorothy Hodgkin

Clara Immerwahr

Allene Jeanes
Irène Joliot-Curie
Joyce Jacobson Kaufman

Ann Kiessling
Stephanie Kwolek

Jeehiun Lee
Jing Li
Kathleen Lonsdale
Louise Hammarström

Maud Menten
Angela Merkel
Elizabeth Ann Nalley
Dorothy M. Needham
Pauline Newman
Wilma Olson
Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze
Lucy Weston Pickett
Agnes Pockels
Hazel Alden Reason
Ellen Swallow Richards
Katsuko Saruhashi
Patsy O'Connell Sherman
Maxine Singer
Hertha Sponer
Anna Sundström
Mária Telkes
Margaret Thatcher
Alice Y. Ting
Kathryn Uhrich
Karen Wetterhahn
Elsie Widdowson