2020 Female Nobel Prize Winners in STEM
We’re passionate about making space for women in STEM, and that begins with fostering a love of science in females from an early age. We think that representation goes a long way in encouraging young learners to enter STEM fields, so we’re excited to celebrate this year’s brilliant female Nobel Prize winners in the areas of physics and chemistry. This type of representation in STEM is a great way to motivate young female-identifying learners to see that they, too, have a place in science, technology, and math.
Read on to learn a bit more about these incredible 2020 Nobel Prize winners, and be sure to share their stories with your students to show them the power of women in STEM!
Jennifer A. Doudna
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020
Jennifer A. Doudna received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside Emmanuelle Carpentier for their work on the development of a method for genome editing.
Doudna is the Li Ka Shing Chancellor's Chair Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Berkeley in California, president and chair of the board of the Innovative Genomics Institute, a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes, and an adjunct professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco.
In their work on CRISPR gene editing, Doudna and her team proposed that enzymes from bacteria that control microbial immunity could be used to edit genomes. The CRISPR technique enables scientists to cut cells at precise locations, enabling them to then remove or add genes. Basically, it allows scientists to modify genomes of living organisms — an incredible feat that can be used to combat genetic diseases, control pests, create new medicines, and much more!
“...my feeling is that I think among women and girls […] sometimes there’s a sense that no matter what they do that their work will not be recognized the way it would be if they were a man. […] I hope that this prize and this recognition changes that at least a little bit, and that it’s encouraging to other women who are in science, or even in other fields, to realize that their work can be honored and that their work can have a real impact. And whether or not it’s a Nobel Prize or something else, that women have a really important role to play in the world, and that their contributions […] can have real impact that is noticed.”
-Jennifer A. Doudna
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020
Emmanuelle Charpentier received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside Jennifer A. Doudna for her work on the development of CRISPR genome editing. Charpentier is a French professor and researcher in microbiology, genetics and biochemistry; she is currently a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin and founder of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens. Earlier in her life, Charpentier studied biochemistry, microbiology and genetics at the Pierre and Marie Curie University, a respected institution named after another iconic female scientist and fellow boundary-breaking Nobel Prize winner!
“We see even more, how do you say, girls and young women choosing science, at least for the field of biology, and it’s very important to provide a message that you know the ultimate recognitions are […] independent of the gender, and that I think it’s most likely a very positive message for the girls and the young women who wish to start science, continue in science, and to really provide a clear message that it is possible to achieve ultimate recognition even if you are female.”
The Nobel Prize in Physics 2020
Andrea Ghez received a Nobel Prize in Physics this year for discovering a supermassive compact object, or black hole, at the center of our galaxy. Ghez is an American astronomer and professor at the University of California, and her award makes her only the fourth woman to ever win a Nobel Prize in Physics!
The black hole Ghez and her teammates discovered at the center of the Milky Way galaxy is now known as “Sagittarius A*”. Though she won the Nobel Prize with two other scientists, Ghez made groundbreaking contributions to the project: employing high spatial resolution imaging techniques, she and her team used the kinematics of stars near the center of the Milky Way in order to follow the orbits of stars around the black hole.
“To me it’s always been very important to encourage young women into the sciences, so to me it means an opportunity and a responsibility to encouraging the next generation of scientists who are passionate about this kind of work into the field […] I think seeing people who look like you […] succeeding shows you that there’s an opportunity there, that you can do it, that this is a field that is open to you.”
Congratulations to all 2020 Nobel Prize winners!
These groundbreaking discoveries and inspirational developments by both women and men in STEM continue to advance our worldview and make the earth a better place for all.
It’s more important than ever to encourage young female students in STEM, and what better way than by fostering a love of math and science in female students from an early age? Much like these impressive female scientists inspire young learners, Imagine Math products feature lovable characters like Ruby, a young female student who dreams of becoming an engineer.
Imagine Learning’s math products contain lessons, games, and assessments that support academic language development to help students better understand and engage with mathematical concepts. Click here to check out Imagine Math PreK-2, Imagine Math 3+ and Imagine Math Facts.