Named one of Forbes’ 2016 30 under 30 in healthcare, Catherine Marinac is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California in San Diego where she conducts cancer research, linking simple behaviors with chronic diseases. Marinac found that overnight fasting could lower a woman’s breast cancer risk—regardless of what she eats before the fasting starts—because it reduces glucose. Marinac found that each 3-hour increase in overnight fasting was associated with a 4% lower postprandial glucose level.
Dr. Elizabeth Nabel is a cardiologist and distinguished biomedical researcher and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Also, as president of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Health Care (BWHC), Nabel’s work on the molecular genetics of cardiovascular diseases has developed molecular and cellular techniques that allocate the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis and clarified the processes of cell division and growth of vascular smooth muscle cells.
Her studies on Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome have characterized the vascular smooth muscle cell defect leading to premature heart attack and stroke. At the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, she established Centers of Excellence in developing countries to combat cardiovascular and lung diseases. At BWHC, she has helped create a national teaching hospital in Haiti and is helping to advance training for medical personnel in other under-resourced countries around the world.
Dr. Cori Bargmann holds a Ph.D. in cancer biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has developed the Brain Research Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative and is uncovering the causes of neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and autism. Through her studies on roundworms, Dr. Bargmann is uncovering how neurons and genes affect behavior, and is able to manipulate certain genes and observe how that affects changes in behavior.
In a 2013 interview with Vogue, Dr. Bargmann talked about her experience giving a speech to a group of girls at Stanford and being asked to comment on the statement: A woman scientist can only choose two out of the following: scientific life, personal life, family life. Her response was “you can have a scientific life and hobbies. You can have a scientific life and family, but it’s probably true that you can’t have all three and feel good about them. But that’s true for men too. The problem is being a human being.”
Dr. Niakan is a developmental biologist and the first to receive regulatory approval to use a powerful gene-editing technology on human embryos. In February, the United Kingdom’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority approved Dr. Niakan to use CRISPR–Cas9 to permanently change the genome of human embryos. Her research will lead to a better understanding of which genes are crucial to embryo development, and could help develop new treatments for infertility, improve our understanding of disease, and even cure diseases as well.
Praised by CRISPR–Cas9 co-inventor, Dr. Jennifer Doudna (see above profile), Niakan’s experiments are “setting the stage for a future in which our DNA represents not just our destiny but opportunity as well, a chance to better the human condition.”
In an interview with her alma mater, Charles Wright Academy, Dr. Niakan said her interest in molecular biology and genetics was sparked by her undergraduate research experience when she “identified the gene responsible for an inherited blood disorder. [She] was thrilled by the possibility that by understanding what is causing a disease it may lead to new approaches for treatment.”
Geneticist Stormy Chamberlain is an Assistant Professor of Genetics and Genome Sciences at the University of Connecticut, and the Associate Director of the Graduate Program in Genetics and Developmental Biology. Her research focuses on Angelman syndrome, which she considers a puzzle. Angelman syndrome is a debilitating neurological developmental disorder with no therapy or cure, and the diagnosis is considered a tragedy by most. Dr. Chamberlain’s goal is to find a treatment therapy through her research using iPSC (induced Pluripotent Stem Cells) to model and study human imprinting disorders with chromosome 15 mutations like Angelman syndrome.
Neurobiologist Elizabeth Gould is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Princeton University. Her focus is on neurogenesis, the production of new neurons in the brain, and she is an expert in the field of neuroplasticity. Her laboratory at Princeton studies the brains of rodents and primates in order to better understand the regulation of neurogenesis, determine the impact that changes in brain structure have on cognition and anxiety regulation, and identify factors that enhance neural plasticity and cell survival.
Geneticist Nancy Wexler is a Higgins Professor of Neuropsychology at Columbia University. She is most well-known for her research on Huntington’s disease and has helped to identify the gene responsible. Dr. Wexler has also helped researchers investigate Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
This list is only a minuscule fraction of the women doing groundbreaking scientific work. There are still numerous women who need entries. Who an influential woman (or women) missing from the list? Add her to the comments below.