In recent years, efforts have been made to encourage girls to become interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The reason is because more men than women are employed in the booming STEM industries. In order to even out these employment figures, exciting STEM programs for girls are growing in number around the country in an effort to introduce them to STEM fields. However, hands-on activities are not the only way to get girls excited about STEM career paths. Another way to spur them to become excited about it is to provide them with female role models who are pursuing successful careers in STEM fields.
One distinguished mark of success in science and engineering is to be named a Packard Fellow. Women who have secured this fellowship can serve as role models for girls who want to pursue STEM careers. Packard Fellows are faculty members who demonstrate great promise in science and engineering early in their careers. The fellows must be employed at one of 50 select universities, where the president of each of those institutions may nominate two faculty members. Eligible fields include ocean science, astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, physics, earth science, and mathematics, as well as all types of engineering. Each year, 18 fellows are selected by an advisory panel from a pool of 100 nominees.
Packard Fellowships, which have been awarded for 30 years, are supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The awards were begun by David Packard, the co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Corporation, and his wife to recognize the contributions of university faculty toward advancements in science and engineering. The awards program provides each recipient with $875,000, which is distributed over a five-year period. In 2018, the following six women, who are great role models for girls interested in STEM careers, were named as Packard Fellows:
Kristin Bergmann is a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was honored for her work in geoscience. She conducts research into the earth’s temperature, from the past to the present. Through her research, she has found that before animals appeared on the earth, temperatures at the surface of the sea along the equator were higher than they are now. She has also studied temperature change over time, including both extreme heat waves and glacial periods, and her results have challenged the status quo.
Mansi M. Kasliwal
A recipient of the award in recognition of her work in astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology, Mansi M. Kasliwal is a faculty member at the California Institute of Technology. She studies both gravity and matter in the extreme environments of space, such as neutron stars and black holes. Her research seeks to find gravitational waves resulting from neutron stars merging with black holes. She is working on building a device that can map gravitational waves and precisely locate electromagnetic mergers.
Karen Kasza, a faculty member at Columbia University, received a fellowship in recognition of her work in the biological sciences. Her scientific contributions involve developing ways to build biological tissue of certain shapes and structures in the laboratory. She is working on finding ways to control mechanical forces within these tissues in order to understand how patterns of forces influence cell behavior and complex tissue structures. Her research is expected to be foundational in terms of integrating mechanics into understanding genetics and developing new strategies for creating various usable types of tissue.
Anne-Marie Madigan, who was recognized for her work in astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology, is a faculty member at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research focuses on a cloud of comets in the outer solar system. While these trillions of comets are small, she hypothesizes that together they are large enough to exert gravitational forces on one another. Her studies suggest that these gravitational forces could have caused comets to be propelled into the inner solar system, potentially putting life on Earth in danger.
Mary Caswell Stoddard
Mary Caswell Stoddard is a faculty member at Princeton University who received the fellowship for her work in ecology and evolutionary biology. Her area of study is birds. Specifically, she focuses on the colors of birds and their ability to see color. She researches the processes that determine color in birds and has developed mathematical computer models to understand how different colors appear to birds. Currently, she is studying wild hummingbirds in the Rocky Mountains.
Renske van der Veen
Recognized for her work in chemistry, Renske van der Veen is a faculty member at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her work involves observing phenomena at the level of the atom. She studies the ways in which nanoparticles change in the process of converting light into energy. She aims to develop a new tool that will make these observations possible. The development of this tool will facilitate the design and control of nanomaterials that can be used in harvesting solar energy.