AAUW Member Awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or MedicineOctober 12, 2009
Sitting at my desk here at AAUW, I can see a framed photograph and handwritten thank-you note from Marie Curie, dated 1920, in which she expresses her gratitude for AAUW’s support of her groundbreaking research on radium. It serves as an inspiration and a reminder as to why it is so important to continue to build support for women in science. While the number of women in science fields has increased since the days of Marie Curie, women are still greatly underrepresented in science as well as in the fields of math, engineering, and technology.
This year I was thrilled to see that the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded to three outstanding scientists, two of whom are women. Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, and Jack W. Szostak have been awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery of “telomerase,” an enzyme that allows cells to divide without dying and could play a role in the uncontrolled spread of cancer cells. It is the first time two women have been among the winners of the medicine prize. Of the 192 individuals awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine over the years, only eight have been women, with Marie Curie being the only woman to have received an award twice. You can see a complete list of women Nobel laureates here.
Carol Greider, an AAUW member, is a molecular biology and genetics professor at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Elizabeth Blackburn teaches biology and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco.
Greider and Blackburn, like Curie, are examples of how supporting women in science has brought groundbreaking changes within their disciplines and society as a whole. AAUW supports women in science and other underrepresented fields through fellowship and grant programs, the National Girls Collaborative Project, and other educational programs.
Let us recognize these women for their accomplishments and continue to encourage women and girls to achieve in science.
I would like to make an update to my blog since there has been more encouraging news since its post. Five women in total have been awarded a Nobel Prize this year, more than any other year before. This includes Elinor Ostrom, the first woman ever to receive a Nobel Prize in economics. While it can be discouraging to look at the stats, only 40 Nobel Prize winners out of 762 have been women, I think it’s exciting that we can look forward to evening out the ratio as more women break through barriers and as more people recognize women for their achievements. Like our commenter Betty said, “Let’s spread the word high and low”!