Open discourse to identify challenges and devise solutions is essential to abolish gender inequalities globally and in science. In our ‘Focus on Women in Science’, we celebrate the achievements and consider the concerns of women researchers from around the world, who share some of the turning points of their scientific careers.
Women in Science
Despite marked advances towards gender equality and women empowerment especially during the last century, progress has been slow and disparities persist around the world. Unfortunately, science is not immune to such inequalities, with women representing only a third of researchers globally and often facing gender-based discrimination and a lack of equal opportunities. With this collection of Turning Point articles we celebrate women researchers by providing a snapshot of the research world through their eyes. In their essays our authors recount some of their personal stories, and share the challenges and successes that marked their careers in research.
Nature Cell Biology Turning Points
Asifa Akhtar is Director at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics. Her lab focuses on chromatin and epigenetic regulation. A member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation, she received the European Life Science Organization award in 2008 and the Wilhelm Feldberg Prize in 2017.
Sandrine Etienne-Manneville investigates the molecular mechanisms underlying cell migration in health and disease. She is Head of the Cell Polarity, Migration and Cancer laboratory, Director of the CNRS UMR3691 unit at the Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, a professor of cell biology and a mother of four.
Maho Hamasaki is an associate professor at Osaka University, Japan. Maho’s laboratory focuses on investigating the mechanistic underpinnings of autophagy and the role of the autophagic process in disease.
Nancy Y. Ip is Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, the Morningside Professor of Life Science, and Director of the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China. Her career in the field of neuroscience spans over three decades.
Professor Kum Kum Khanna heads the Signal Transduction Laboratory at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia. She studies the role of the DNA damage response in tissue homeostasis and disease, including how to exploit its dysregulation in breast cancer to develop targeted therapeutic approaches.
Melissa Little is an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow and Cell Biology Theme Director at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. She also leads Stem Cells Australia, University of Melbourne. She studies kidney morphogenesis and regeneration using pluripotent stem cells.
Serena is a Cancer Research UK Advanced Clinician Scientist at the University of Cambridge. She studies mutation patterns in human DNA and finds ways to make it applicable in a clinical setting. Serena is a mother of two, loves music and being outdoors, and fights the forties with kung fu.
Melina Schuh did her PhD at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory with Jan Ellenberg. She became group leader at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, in 2009, and was appointed Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany, in 2016.
M. Celeste Simon is Scientific Director of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute and Arthur H. Rubenstein, MBBCh Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies tumour and stromal cell responses to variable oxygen and nutrient levels and is a devoted mentor of biomedical trainees.
Anne Simonsen is a Professor at the Department of Molecular Medicine at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences of the University of Oslo, Norway. Her work focuses on lipid-binding proteins in membrane trafficking and autophagy, and their links to disease.
Shubha Tole obtained her BSc in Life Sciences and Biochemistry from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, India, in 1987. After a PhD from the California Institute of Technology in 1994, she did her postdoc at the University of Chicago. In 1999, she joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, in Mumbai, as a faculty member.
Fiona Watt runs the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King’s College London and is an outspoken advocate for women scientists. Since April 2018, she has been on secondment as Executive Chair of the Medical Research Council, one of the major funders of biomedical research in the UK.
Mayana Zatz is Professor of Genetics and Director of the Human Genome and Stem-Cell Research Center at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She works on neuromuscular disorders, ageing and, more recently, Zika virus and cancer. She has a prolific publication record and is actively involved in ethical aspects of genetic research.