You Need to Know These Women Scientists with a Coveted Lasker Award

You Need to Know These Women Scientists with a Coveted Lasker Award

The gender gap in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is well known, but one way to reduce this gap is to introduce girls to female role models working as STEM professionals.

Fortunately, the Lasker Awards have been recognizing women in the medical sciences since 1945. These awards in basic research, clinical research, special achievement, and public service are known as the most prestigious prizes in biomedicine in the United States. In all, 23 women scientists have won.

Read on for a list of the award winners, by year.



Joan Argetsinger Steitz | Image courtesy Wikipedia

Joan Argetsinger Steitz won the Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science. Best known for her work in RNA biology, Steitz was also commended for her mentorship of women in science.



Winner of the Basic Medical Research Award, Evelyn M. Witkin is credited with discovering the damage response mechanism of DNA in bacteria.



Mary-Claire King, who won the Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science, is known for her research on the genetics of breast cancer. She has also been instrumental in DNA research used to identify the genealogy of the missing or deceased.



Ingeborg Hochmair was selected to receive the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for developing the multichannel cochlear implant. An electrical engineer, Hochmair began experimenting with cochlear implants in the 1970s.



Tu Youyou
Tu Youyou | Image courtesy Bengt Nyman | Flickr

Tu Youyou won the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for her antimalarial drug research. Her work, which started in the 1960s, led to the development of a new treatment for malaria, which is estimated to have saved hundreds of millions of lives since. She is also the first Chinese woman to win.



Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carol W. Greider (along with Jack Szostak) won the Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research for their work on chromosomes. They discovered an enzyme that interacts with chromosomes and has been found to influence both cancer and aging.



Janet D. Rowley won the Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award for research into the genetics of cancer. Dr. Rowley is most known for her work on the chromosomes involved in leukemia and lymphoma.



Rachel Schneerson was recognized with the Clinical Medical Research Award for her work on a vaccine for bacterial meningitis. This research has resulted in almost completely eliminating bacterial meningitis from the United States.



Nancy S. Wexler won the Lasker Public Service Award for her work on Huntington’s Disease. Under her leadership, the gene responsible for Huntington’s Disease was identified and genetic testing became possible. Dr. Wexler’s advocacy for scientific research into hereditary diseases was also recognized.



Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard | Image courtesy Bastian Greshake Tzovaras | Flickr

The Lasker Basic Research Award went to Christiane Nusslein-Volhard for genetic research. Her work resulted in the identification of nearly all the genes involved in the developing fruit fly embryo. Additionally, she discovered the process through which cell behavior is determined based on its location within the embryo.



Rita Levi-Montalcini received the Basic Medical Research Award for her discovery of nerve growth factor, a substance released by tumor cells that stimulates the growth of nerves and is a factor in new research into neurological and psychological illnesses.



The Clinical Medical Research Award went to Elizabeth F. Neufeld for her work on genetic diseases. Her research into how excess sugars accumulate in the body and lead to death has become the basis for new research into these genetic diseases. She also developed genetic testing procedures for these diseases.



Barbara McClintock | Image courtesy Wikipedia

Barbara McClintock received the Lasker Award in Basic Medical Research for her work in genetics. In the 1940s, she discovered that genetic modifications control how genes function in all living things. Her research has helped others understand the genetic variation between different life forms.



Nuclear physicist Rosalyn S. Yalow is the first female winner of the Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. Her work on using radioactive isotopes in medical testing has had applications for treatments for diabetes, growth disorders, adrenal gland disease, and sterility.



Helen B. Taussig received the Lasker Clinical Research Award for surgery on infants with heart defects. Her work has been foundational for all future research into the cardiovascular system.

Leona Baumgartner won the Lasker Public Service Award for her work in maternal and child health. Her efforts made changes to the health services offered by public schools and led to her appointment as the first woman commissioner of health for New York City.



Elise L’Esperance and Catherine Macfarlane were jointly recognized with the Lasker Award in Clinical Medical Research for establishing cancer detection clinics.

Florence R. Sabin won the Lasker Public Service Award in recognition of her work in public health administration.



Marion W. Sheahan received the Lasker Public Service Award for developing public nursing initiatives during World War II.



Martha M. Eliot | Image courtesy Wikipedia

The Lasker Public Service Award went to Martha M. Eliot for improving maternal and infant medical care, especially in underserved areas, during World War II. It is estimated that her efforts impacted millions of lives.



Alice Hamilton won the Lasker Public Service Award for her work in industrial medicine. Hamilton’s efforts to prevent occupation-related diseases led to regulations controlling the use of hazardous materials in the workplace.