2016’s Top trailblazing women in STEM

By Chelsea Han

Thousands of women are growing in the STEM community, which used to be a male dominated field. The year of 2016 marks an incredible journey of women continuing to inspire more women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Many of the women featured on this year’s Wiles Hot List have already won awards for their work, while some are on the verge of a scientific breakthrough. This year was a remarkable time for women to excel or create a name for themselves because now more than ever, women are coming forward and embracing their skills in STEM. Here’s a list of 40 women under 40 years old who are heating up the industry and are blazing trails for generations to come.

1. Deepika Kurup: 18

Kurup is a scientist, inventor, and clean water advocate known for winning the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Award at just 14 years old. She developed a new, inexpensive way to use solar power to clean and filter water. She is currently studying at Harvard University to study medicine and become a neurologist.

2. Brittany Wenger: 21

Wenger won the Google Science Fair in 2012 for her statistical model that predicts signs of breast cancer in breast tissue samples. She used neural networks to develop the model that is currently 99.1 percent accurate in detecting cancer.

3.Teasha Feldman-Fitzthum: 24

Feldman-Fitzthum is the cofounder of EverVest, a company that provides software for analyzing, valuing, and financing renewable energy projects. Her research led to the development of an algorithm that can better predict wind-power resources.

4. Divya Nag: 24

Nag is the cofounder of Stem Cell Theranostics, a company that uses disease-specific beating heart cells to develop genetically targeted therapy for heart failure. She also cofounded the company, StartX Med, the first non-profit medical entrepreneurship program for Stanford scientists.

5. Elizabeth Beattie Hunter: 25

Hunter is the creator of the Titan Arm, an exoskeleton that increases the strength of a human arm by 40 pounds. The arm is a powered upper-body exoskeleton that can be used for rehabilitation or occupationally.  She is passionate about combining medicine and engineering to develop better diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

6.Nanxi Liu: 25

Liu cofounded a startup that led to the invention of polymers that allow vaccines to survive without refrigeration. Her latest startup, Enplug, has become one of the most popular softwares used in the world to show interactive content on displays. In 2014, she won the Young Innovators Award.

7.Taylor Feehley: 26

Feehley is an immunology researcher who studies food allergies. She is researching how bacteria in the gut interacts with the immune system and hopes to prevent the development of food allergies. She is working on a study about Clostridia, a strain of bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract that protects against food allergies.

8. Courtney Gras: 26

Gras is the cofounder of Design Flux Technologies and the creator of the Cognicell chip. She started as a power systems engineer at NASA, but left her job to start her own company, creating the world’s first software defined power management system. The chip can control battery charging, management, and fault isolation.

9. Natasha Wright: 26

Wright is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, and a Fellow in the Tata Center for Technology and Design. Her current work focuses on using electro dialysis technology to provide clean drinking water in off the grid settings.

10. Jocelyn Brown: 27

Brown is a senior program associate at Rice 360 and helped invent a device that is a tenth of the price of a normal ventilator for infants. A clinical trial indicated that it could save almost 180,000 newborn African infants annually. The device is currently being distributed to African hospitals.

11. Marcela Uliano da Silva: 27

Da Silva is a Brazilian biologist who aspires to engineer reproductive genes to eliminate the Golden Mussel, a freshwater mollusk that has been killing native plant and fish species in the Amazon River. She plans to target the genes in the Golden Mussel instead of using chemicals that could possibly harm other species in the river.

12. Sarah Guthals: 27

Guthals is the co-founder of ThoughtSTEM, a San Diego-based company that develops courses, trainings, software, and textbooks for children ages 8 through 18 years old to learn how to program. She specializes in game development, curriculum development, human-computer interaction, and e-learning.

13. Dieuwertje Kast: 27

Kast is a STEM program manager whose focus is on teaching students around the world about STEM and increasing involvement in the program. She created a program in 2010 called WonderKids, an after-school science program where young kids can become acclimated to the STEM industry.

14. Sophie Milam: 27

Milam is a researcher of robotics. She is currently serving on a mock mission to Mars in Hawaii where she and five others are studied by NASA for insight into group cohesion in isolated and confined environments.

15. Evelyn Auyeung: 28

Auyeung is a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University who found a way to use DNA to get nanoparticles to self-assemble. This knowledge could lead to faster and more efficient methods for processing chemicals cheaply.

16. Embriette Hyde: 28

Hyde is the American Gut Project’s manager who focuses on micro biome research and how it affects medicine. She joined a project aiming to show the effects of vaginal ring drug delivery systems on the micro biome of women, which is crucial to testing the efficiency of a drug system for HIV prevention.

17. Iliana Vargas: 28

Vargas is a neuroscientist studying memory at Northwestern University. She is researching how memory and sleep are correlated. Her current work focuses on figuring out whether memory reactivation during sleep can be a technique that can improve different parts of memory.

18. Emily Woods: 28

Woods is a sanitation engineer who developed a way to use human waste as fuel. She cofounded Sanivation, a company which developed the first method for solar treatment of human waste. She is currently working in Kenya to use her sustainable fuel method and sanitation model at refugee camps.

19. Corina Antal: 29

Antal is a researcher studying the growth of tumors and new cancer treatments at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies. She is researching how a group of proteins that was once thought to grow tumors is actually suppressing tumor growth, which may lead to new and effective cancer treatments.

20. Qian Chen: 29

Chen is a materials scientist/assistant professor of material science and engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana focusing on studying soft matter, the artificial materials equal to smart living systems. Her goal is to outdo nature, and make artificial materials self-replicating and self-regenerating.

21. Wei Chen: 29

Wei Chen is the CEO of Observ Commodities, a software company that deciphers the cost of transporting natural gas across North America. Her software helps traders gain a better insight into movements in the market. Wei is also a product manager at Genscape and a gas fundamental analyst at Barclays.

22. Lisa Ganderson: 29

Ganderson is the Senior Associate for Investments with General Electric Energy. She is focused on creating a “digital oilfield” that can include intelligent sensor technology for remote monitoring, algorithms for drilling optimization, drones for leak detection, and underwater vehicles for inspection.

23. Genevera Allen: 30

Allen is a neuroscientist and assistant professor at Rice University studying to find a better way to assemble mass brain information. She uses techniques from optimization theory and high performance computing to solve problems arising from new technologies.

24. Elika Bergelson: 30

Bergelson is an assistant professor at Duke University who studies language acquisition. She conducted a study that incorporates at-home video recordings with lab experiments, geared specifically at gaining a better understanding of how visual and linguistic experiences impact early word learning.

25. Canan Dagdeviren: 30,

Dagdeviren is an engineer that is working on creating electronic chips that can be implanted and powered by the body. Her research has led to implantable, minimally invasive brain injections that are capable of addressing aspects for treating neural disorders.

26. Rachel Haurwitz: 30

Haurwitz is the cofounder and CEO of Caribou Biosciences which focuses on the Cas9 protein to destroy viruses. Caribou Biosciences is one of the leading companies pursuing applications of CRISPR, a tool that could help scientists develop new medical treatments and advance other industries.

27. Elaine Hsaio: 30

Hsaio is a research fellow at UCLA studying mind altering microbes that may affect the brain and its behavior. She recently published a paper explaining how mice with autism-like disorders were helped when fed gut bacteria.

28. Shiho Kawashima: 30

Kawashima is an engineer and professor at Columbia University studying how to create a stronger concrete that will last through natural devastations. She hopes to develop more innovative techniques to further understand the evolution and microstructure of cement systems.

29. Christina Agapakis: 31

Agapakis is a researcher in synthetic biology and biotechnology. She is a founding editor of Method Quarterly, a magazine about science in-the making. She is also a creative director at Ginkgo Bioworks, an organism design company that is fuses biology and industrial engineering together.

30. Paige Cramer: 31

Cramer is the founder of Rexceptor, a biotechnology company focusing on Alzheimer’s. She initially made headlines in 2012 after discovering that a cancer drug could notably reverse Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in mice. The clinical trial is currently still underway.

31. Debra Sterling: 33

Sterling is an engineer and the CEO and founder of Goldiebox, a toy company created to inspire the next generation of female engineers. Sterling focuses on keeping girl’s minds active with construction toys that stimulate their spatial needs. Her mission in life is to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math.

32. Jedidah Isler: 34

Isler is an award-winning astrophysicist and STEM advocate. She created a monthly web series to promote women of color in the STEM industry. Her current research focuses on using infrared, optical, and gamma-ray observations to better understand the physics of particles emanating from black holes.

33. Chelsea Clinton: 36

Clinton, child of former US President Bill Clinton and current Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, works through the Clinton Foundation to stimulate education for young women looking to enter the field of STEM. Her initiative, No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, has advanced the participation of girls and women around the world.

34. Amy Sheng: 37

Sheng is the cofounder of Cellscope, a company that uses smartphones to provide remote diagnosis of infectious diseases to improve healthcare. She started the company with the vision of improving family healthcare in a convenient and cost-efficient way.

35. Lucianne Walkowicz: 37

Walkowicz is an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. She works on NASA’s Kepler mission studying star spots and stellar flares. She is also the leader of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a new project that will scan the sky every night for 10 years to create a cosmic movie of the universe.

36. Liu Yang: 37

Yang, a Chinese pilot and astronaut, served as a crew member on the space mission Shenzhou 9. She is the first Chinese woman who has been in space as of June 16, 2012. During her manned mission in space, Yang performed experiments for space medicine.

37. Rana El Kaliouby: 38

Kaliouby is the chief science officer of Affectiva, a company which has developed emotion recognition technology. Her team applies computer vision, machine learning, and data science to study the company’s storage of over 2 million faces to understand people’s behaviors and emotions.

38. Samantha Cristoforetti: 39

Cristoforetti is an Italian European Space Agency astronaut and Italian Air Force pilot and engineer who holds the world record for longest single space flight by a woman, 199 days and 16 hours. She is also the first Italian woman who has been in space. On July 20 of 2015, she was awarded the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

39. Maryam Mirzakhani: 39

Mirzakhani became the first woman and Iranian woman to be honored with the Fields Medal, the most prestigious award in mathematics. She is a professor of mathematics at Stanford University and studies Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry and symplectic geometry.

40. Mayim Bialik: 40

Bialik is a neuroscientist and actress, famous for her role on Big Bang Theory as Amy Fowler. She is currently part of a new initiative, Fablab, which allows girls to ask Bialik questions in a segment called  ‘Ask Mayim.” -She hopes the segment will help girls become more comfortable with the idea of getting involved in STEM.

More and more women are continuing to join the STEM workforce every day, and breaking boundaries of what it means to be a woman in a male dominated field. These female pioneers are changing lives, starting businesses, and inspiring others with the work they have accomplished. The younger generations are coming out of their shell and finding their passion in STEM. This year’s Wiles Hot List celebrates the accomplishments of women who have not only broken new ground for themselves, but who have also paved the way for more hopeful and driven stars to emerge in the years to come.





Leave A Comment