How High School Robotics is Healing Afghanistan
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Four Afghanistan teen girls on stage accepting their robotics award

Since 2017, an all-girls robotics team in Herat, Afghanistan, has taken the world by storm.

Within a short period of time, the group of seven teenagers won silver medals at the First Global Challenge robotics competition in Washington and for winning the entrepreneur challenge at the biggest robotics competition in Europe.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no surprise that a group of girls put their heads together to create vital and accessible medical equipment needed to treat coronavirus patients. Taking inspiration from an MIT design, the girls finalized their version of an easily accessible and cost-effective ventilator, a necessary piece of equipment that cannot be easily found among Afghanistan’s medical centers. The ventilator calls for a lighter, more portable, battery-operated design that would cost as little as $700 to obtain a rather than normal $20,000. Though these plans were completely put together by the girls, Harvard University stood with the girls as a source of advice and support.

Somaya Faruqi, one of the members of the robotic team, said of the designs, “We are delighted that we were able to take our step into the field of medicine and to be able to serve the people in this area as well.”

The designs have been submitted to the World Health Organization for approval and have gained great support from Afghanistan’s Minister of Health, praising the girls for their “initiative and creativity in Afghanistan’s health sector…”

20 worthwhile conferences for women in tech
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women in tech graphics

Diversity is a hot topic in the tech industry — and because it’s discussed frequently, it might be easy to feel like things have already changed. But according to a recent Women in Technology report from IDC, only 42% of women feel their employer offered equal pay, compared to 75% of men who feel the same.

Additionally, 56% of women feel that women are underrepresented in STEM fields in their organization compared to 26% of men. Women also feel that their workplace is more geared towards men (45%), that there is a lack of support for women in STEM (33%) and

                                                                                                                 (Image Credit – CIO)

that taking time off for family will impact their career opportunities (35%).

Whether you already have a strong network of women colleagues in your industry or if you’re looking to expand your community, there are a number of conferences designed for women in STEM fields. And most of these aren’t just for women — they’re open to allies and anyone who supports diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Here are 20 tech conferences that aim to connect women and other underrepresented groups in technology to build a more diverse community in the tech industry.

Black Women Tech Talk

The Black Women Tech Talk conference is dedicated to founders and offers “self-enriching sessions, networking and one-of-a-kind experiences.” The three-day event includes keynote speakers, sessions on how to practice self-care as a founder, how to balance your personal life and career, and other workshops specific to being a female founder. The retreat also includes less traditional sessions and perks such as free hair and makeup appointments, group yoga sessions, and other networking and social events that give attendees a chance to mingle.

Global Women in Tech Awards

The Women in IT Awards & Summit is a one-day event covering topics such as blockchain, AI and machine learning — there is also an awards gala at the end of the conference. Award categories include CIO of the Year; Advocate of the Year; Entrepreneur of the Year; Future CIO of the Year; Business Role Model of the Year; CTO of the Year; Rising Star; and Diversity Initiative of the Year. The NYC and Silicon Valley conferences were held virtually in 2020 — dates and location for 2021 haven’t been announced yet.

Grace Hopper Celebration

The Grace Hopper Celebration was co-founded by Dr. Anita Borg and Dr. Telle Whitney in 1994 and is now the world’s “largest gathering of women technologists,” according to the event website. The conference is named after Admirable Grace Murray Hopper, who is considered the one of the first computer programmers — her work is directly responsible for the development of COBOL.

Read the original article and learn more about tech conferences for women at CIO.
Farmworker turned astronaut Jose Hernandez urges kids not to give up
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Astronaut Jose Hernandez in spacesuit smiling holding his space suit helmet

Former NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez spent most of his youth working the fields.

So many kids have struggled with remote learning, but Hernandez wants them all to know when it comes to their future, the sky’s the limit.

As a young boy, Hernandez picked fruits and vegetables alongside his family.

“We spent nine months in California, three months in Mexico, but those nine months I went to three different school districts,” he explained.

The family settled in Stockton. Jose couldn’t speak English until he was 12 years old, but STEM subjects spoke to him.

“I gravitated towards math because 1 + 3 is 4 in any language,” Hernandez said.

When he was ten, Jose told his dad he wanted to be an astronaut, so his father laid out a five-part recipe for success.

First, set a goal. Then recognize how far away you are from that goal.

“The third thing is you have to draw yourself a road map to know where you’re at to where you want to go,” Hernandez added. “And then I asked what’s the fourth? He said you’ve got to get an education.”

The University of the Pacific grad called hard work the fifth ingredient.

But his path was a difficult one.

“NASA rejected me not once, not twice, not three times but 11 times. It wasn’t until the 12th time that I got selected,” he said.

Hernandez would blast off with the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2009.

“It’s a ride that even Disneyland would be envious of because you go from zero to 17,500 miles an hour in eight and a half minutes,” he recalled.

Jose worked on the International Space Station during the 14-day trip, which covered 5.4 million miles.

“I wish we had a frequent flyer program,” Hernandez laughed.

He circled the globe 217 times but remains a down to Earth guy who tells kids how to realize their own dreams.

“Hard work and perseverance and not being afraid to dream big,” he said.

Continue on to the NBC 7 to read the complete article.

Grant to make STEM education more accessible to students with disabilities
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FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington has received a National Science Foundation grant of $96,377 to engage rural students with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning through accessible makerspaces.

The innovative UMF incubator makerspace, Maine-Makerspaces for Abilities Driving Entrepreneurship (ME-MADE), is in the Mantor Library Learning Commons. It is available to the university community, with plans to be open to members of the public of all abilities and disabilities.

                                                               (Photo credit – Courtesy UMF)

A makerspace is an area that contains materials and tools for people to work together to learn, collaborate, create and share. They provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they engage in STEM.

Over a 16-month period of the NSF planning grant, UMF and its partners, the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and the Mt. Blue Middle School, will focus on creating a shared vision that will be supported by a range of activities, including, outreach to grades kindergarten to 12 schools throughout the state.

The NSF grant will build on the progress of a three-year, $300,000 grant received from the University of Maine System’s Maine Economic Improvement Fund in spring 2020. The MEIF is the state’s investment in University of Maine System research and development that benefits the people of Maine. The UMF project was recognized as having the potential to provide a positive economic impact for Maine by fostering entrepreneurship in the region.

Read the full article at Sun Journal.

Cultural Brokers Build Bridges for African American Women in STEM
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by Danielle Ferguson, Ed.D., Researcher, American Institute for Research (AIR)

Dr. Danielle Ferguson, now a researcher at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), focused her dissertation on African American Women in STEM: Uncovering stories of persistence and resilience through an examination of social and cultural capital.

In this article, Dr. Ferguson shares some of what she learned from her research.  

There have been many calls from researchers to increase the diversity of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field (Archer et al., 2015; McGee & Bentley, 2017), especially including the participation of more African American women. The lack of representation of African American women and other people from diverse backgrounds could be viewed through multiple lenses but diversity could only improve the global competitiveness of the United States. Furthermore, STEM careers provide economic benefits for individuals because they are amongst the fastest growing career path and provide higher salaries than other careers (Pew Research Center, 2018). 

Many teachers, professors, researchers, and others have answered this call to action by creating programs at the institutional level to increase the interest, participation, and retention of African American women in the STEM field, such as the Defense STEM Education Consortium program at Morgan State University. But what happens to African American women after they enter STEM careers? According to the eight successful African American women with a terminal degree in the STEM field, who were interviewed as part of Dr. Ferguson’s research, their experiences in their STEM careers are not what they expected. They feel undervalued, face both sexism and racism, and lack the guidance and support that they need to advance in the field. 

In order for African American women to be successful once they enter the STEM field, they need guidance and support. Glen Aikenhead (2001) argued that learning science is a cross-cultural event for non-white students, therefore success in the field requires a cultural broker. A cultural broker is someone who relates to an individual’s culture and the culture of science and can help individuals build a bridge between the two cultures. Cultural brokers offer individuals, including African American women, strategies for success in their field by providing them with specific feedback for how to advance in their field, introducing them to key people, and helping them navigate cultural borders by showing them how to leverage their cultural capital in the STEM fields. They encourage African Americans to bring their full selves to their careers while also assisting them in being successful in STEM. 

Cultural brokers spend time building relationships with African American women. They offer them authentic opportunities for professional growth. For example, instead of only suggesting that these women attend professional conferences, cultural brokers provide them opportunities to participate in projects that they can present at conferences. Additionally, cultural brokers help African American women understand the importance of attending professional conferences is networking with prominent researchers in the STEM fields and assist them in making important connections with these individuals. Cultural brokers assist African American women in getting articles published in peer-reviewed journals by modeling the process and connecting them with others with whom they can collaborate, since publications help individuals build prominence in STEM fields. Cultural brokers listen to African American women. They do not downplay the hardships that they face but work with them to find solutions to overcome the barriers. Furthermore, they advocate with and for African American women. In summary, the role of a cultural broker is to go beyond providing African American women with information but to assist these women in building bridges between their experiences and perspectives and the experiences that are valuable in STEM fields.

If we truly believe that increasing the diversity of STEM fields is beneficial to individuals and our nation, we cannot continue to encourage African American women to pursue STEM careers then leave them scrambling for opportunities once they arrive. We cannot continue to provide mentorship that requires these women to detach from their identities and culture. We have to become cultural brokers for these women to help them bridge the gap between their culture and the culture of science by providing genuine opportunities, support, and listening to these women. Trial by fire can no longer be a rite of passage in STEM, especially for African American women. 

References: 

Aikenhead, G. S. (2001). Integrating western and aboriginal sciences. Cross-cultural Science Teaching, 31, 337-355. 

Archer, L., DeWitt, J., Osborne, J., Dillion, J., Willis, B., & Wong, B. (2013). ‘Not girly, not sexy, not glamorous’: Primary school girls’ and parents’ constructions of science aspirations. Pedagogy, Culture & Society 21(1), 171-194. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681366.2012.748676

Ferguson, D.S. (2016). African American women in STEM: Uncovering stories of persistence and resilience through an examination of social and cultural capital (Accession No. 10158857). [Doctoral dissertation, Morgan State University, Baltimore]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.  

McGee, E. O., & Bentley, L. (2017). The troubled success of Black women in STEM, Cognition and Instruction, 35(4), 265-289.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07370008.2017.1355211

Pew Research Center. (2018). “Women and Men in STEM Often at Odds Over Workplace Equity.” Retrieved from https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/01/09/women-and-men-in-stem-often-at-odds-over-workplace-equity/

Doctor of Internal Medicine Creates Little Medical School
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Recognized as Innovator of Youth Health Education

By Rhonda Sanderson

Dr. Mary Mason’s deep love of family, medicine and education led her to a career in healthcare and success as an entrepreneur. 

Dr. Mason is an Internal Medicine Specialist in Saint Louis, MO and has over 26 years of experience in the medical field. She graduated from Wash U, School of Medicine medical school in 1994. In 1998 she founded Little Medical School which has a curriculum based on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that provides students with a strong foundation to pursue careers in medicine. It all began with a quest to inspire young adults to pursue careers in medicine.

“Whether utilizing Science to understand anatomy, Technology to better utilize patient information, Engineering to develop solutions to complex medical issues, or Math to calculate the proper dose of medication; Health and STEM are inseparable. Beyond LMS focus on learning and critical thinking – our most important function is to INSPIRE an understanding of health and career options,” said Dr. Mason. 

(Photo Credit – Little Medical School)                             

In 1998, Dr. Mason wrote the first lesson plan and enlisted her medical school colleagues to teach local teenagers. This passion for encouraging careers in healthcare culminated in the creation of LMS in 2010. In 2015, responding to constant inquiries, LMS became a popular and unique franchise opportunity. Dr. Mason’s company recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with approximately 50 franchises in the United States and abroad.  A standard franchise is home or office based with protected territories of 100 elementary schools. Franchise Fees of $24,500 and an Equipment & Curriculum fee of $13,100, make this fun concept ultra-reasonable.

Today, the company is a pioneer and leading developer of award-winning, specialized curriculum and interactive resources for children 4-14. With corporate offices in St. Louis, all of its franchises are independently owned by those who share a common goal of inspiring health awareness through education — one student at a time. 

The Little Medical School curriculum has grown to include a wide variety of educational programs, including but not limited to personal health, safety, life-saving skills, nutrition, dental care, veterinarian, and wilderness medicine.  Whether after-school/summer programming, birthday parties, in-school field trips, scout badge fulfillment or special events – lessons can be customized.  In addition, LMS offers a variety of educational role-play kits, including:  How To Be A Pediatrician, Sports Surgeon, Veterinarian — and even a Great Sibling.  

LMS is committed to educational programming that creates an environment where students are able to learn, explore and enjoy while building self-confidence.  Through innovative programming, fun activities, and structured role-play – students often use realistic medical supplies and interactive utensils while dressed in white lab coats – to create a unique, entertaining, and engaging learning experience.  Lessons provide students the opportunity to explore the many functions of the human body, learn life-saving skills, and perform orthopedic procedures such as a realistic Tommy John Surgery.  LMS believes this role-play and hands-on experience can play a vital role in helping students to shape their attitudes towards personal health, well-being, and career options.  

Little Medical School has been nationally recognized by business, parent, and educational organizations:  Entrepreneur Magazine (Top 500 Franchises for 2019), Creative Child Magazine (2017 Product of the Year), 2017 National Parenting Product Awards and 2018 Stevie Award Winner for Women in Business.

For more information about a franchise please contact Leslie Manes at Lmanes@sfdpros.net 

Rhonda Sanderson is a franchise expert who has owned and operated Sanderson & Associates and Sanderson PR, both specializing in, traditional, social media and crisis PR in the franchise space since 1986. She has authored many articles, helped grow numerous franchise chains is considered one of the Top 30 Small Business Influencers (Fit Business) in the U.S. Find her at Rhonda@sandersonpr.com or on LinkedIn where she is the author of Franchise Stars at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rhonda-sanderson-a6b658/

 

Dream Flight
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NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps trains in a spacesuit within a mock International Space Station model at NASA's Johnson Space Center

Astronaut Jeanette Epps will make history as the first black woman to live and work with a crew in space.

By Monica Luhar 

It was always her dream to one day go up in space.

Little did astronaut Jeanette Jo Epps know she’d be making history while doing it.

In August, NASA named Epps, who turned 50 on November 3, to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, which marks the first operational crewed flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).

The mission, expected to launch in 2021, will mark Epps’ first space expedition while also making her the first African-American female astronaut to live and work onboard the ISS in a crewed flight for a six-month duration.

“I think many people dream of becoming an astronaut, most, however, never pursue it. My life has been geared toward it indirectly with the hope of becoming a viable candidate. However, it wasn’t until Spring ’08 that, because of the encouragement of a close friend, I realized that I would be a viable candidate and that I should apply,” Epps said in a NASA interview.

Epps will be joining NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada on a six-month long mission to the ISS. The flight will follow strict protocol and NASA certification after a successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and Crew Flight Test with astronauts.

Shortly after the flight announcement, Epps tweeted out her excitement for joining the expedition with her NASA colleagues:

Epps, right, spoke about her time in space at a STEM day session with students at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington. Photo credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

“I’m super excited to join Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada on the first operational Boeing crew mission to the International Space Station. I’ve flown in helicopters with Sunita flying and I’ve flown in the backseat of a T-38 with Josh flying, and they are both wonderful people to work with. So, I’m looking forward to the mission,” she tweeted.

Former NASA astronaut Mae Carol Jemison became the first black woman to travel in space after being selected to NASA’s astronaut program in June 1987. She was followed by astronaut Stephanie Wilson, while Joan Higginbotham was the third black woman to venture into space.

While this will be Epps’ first space expedition, it is not her first mission. In 2017, NASA assigned Epps to be a flight engineer to the International Space Station in mid-2018 for Expeditions 56 and 57.

She would have become the first African-American space station crew member, the first African American to launch aboard the Russian Soyuz vehicle, and the 15th African American to fly in space. But in January 2018, NASA ended up backtracking on its decision for reasons unknown.

But now Epps is back in action and is slated to make history through her first spaceflight to the International Space Station.

The Path to Space

The inspiration for a career in space exploration was embedded in Epps as a child. She was born in Syracuse, New York, as one of seven children to Henry and Luberta (née Jackson) Epps, Mississippians who moved to Syracuse as part of the Great Migration.

She and her twin sister, Janet, both excelled in math and science, and when Epps was 9-years-old, it was her brother who inspired her to pursue a career in space.

“My older brother came home from school at Rochester Institute of Technology when I was 9 and he took a look at my sister’s and my grades. He said, ‘Wow, you guys are doing great. You can be anything you want to be, an astronaut, whatever,’” she told a group of students, as reported by The Star Telegram.

But the journey to getting there wasn’t always a linear path; Epps dabbled in several different careers before becoming an astronaut for NASA.

Official Astronaut portrait of Jeanette Epps
Photographer: Robert Markowitz

She previously worked for Ford Motor Company, where she was responsible for research surrounding automobile collision detection and other systems that led to the success of a provisional patent and a U.S. Patent for her research. She also worked at the Central Intelligence Agency for seven years as a Technical Intelligence Officer before becoming an astronaut with NASA and working in the ISS Operations Branch to troubleshoot issues to support space station crews.

She received her Bachelor of Science in Physics at LeMoyne College, and her Master of Science and Doctorate of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland.

In 2008, Epps had a conversation with a friend who encouraged her to apply to the Astronaut Corps. In an interview with Parentology, Epps said, “I never thought that they’d actually select me, but they did.”

In 2009, Epps was selected as one of 9 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class.

“I was truly shocked because of the caliber of people I met during the interview process,” she said upon hearing that she was chosen. “I met some of the most amazing inspirational people. It is a huge honor to have been selected!

During her graduate school career, Epps served as a NASA fellow and wrote many journal and conference articles discussing her research.

“Her graduate research involved extensive testing of composite swept‐tip beams, comparative analysis of analytical models and experimental data for shape memory alloys and the application of shape memory alloy actuators for tracking helicopter rotor blades,” according to NASA.

Inspiring Future Astronauts

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by a Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lifts off
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by a Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, lifts off from Space Launch Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Epps knows all too well the importance of encouraging students who are interested in STEM and other career avenues to follow their dreams, no matter the hurdles.

She was recently invited to speak to youth at Weatherford High School about her experience as an astronaut and her excitement about the upcoming NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to send the first woman on the moon by 2024.

Epps told students about the training she received at NASA, as well as her previous career path. She also shared her excitement as one of 13 female astronaut candidates that could be the first woman to land on the moon.

“You never know, as long as you’re in the program. That would be fantastic…It would be otherworldly,” Epps told students, as reported by The Star Telegram.

She explained that a historic trip to the moon could help uncover more answers about the Earth and the solar system. “It can be a way point to getting to Mars. We can stop there and we refuel and go on to Mars,” Epps told Business Insider in an interview.

When she’s not researching or thinking about space, Epps’s earthly hobbies include scuba diving and reading. “Other hobbies that I have, when I am not working, include traveling, reading, and trying as many new things as I can!”

NASA has had many interesting developments and upcoming projects like Asthros and Euclid, and others underway. For astronauts currently in space, many were able to safely cast their vote from the ISS in time for the 2020 presidential election. Astronaut Kate Rubins tweeted, “From the International Space Station: I voted today — Kate Rubins.”

Epps, center, answers a question along side of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, and NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock, right, during an interactive STEM discussion with students at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

In 2016, the film, Hidden Figures, based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, shed light on the importance of STEAM as well as workplace discrimination, segregation, and other barriers that faced African-American female mathematicians and engineers. Many African Americans in STEM played an important role in the space program at NASA and helped shape the future of space exploration.

Representation and diverse leadership in STEM are key. The UPS recently posted a report discussing the need for more black women in STEM leadership: “Without a stronger commitment globally to diversity and inclusion in STEM, companies will continue to miss out on—or lose—talent that could bolster their business performance, and ultimately, their bottom lines.”

According to Catalyst, in 2017, 11.5 percent of science and engineering employees in the US were women of color. Currently, only 17 African-American astronauts represent NASA.

While women of color have been historically underrepresented in STEM, Epps is committed to moving the needle.

“The NASA mission has always inspired me because I have a great desire to help further our understanding of the world we live in and the universe,” she said in a NASA interview. “I pursued a career in science and technology in an effort to contribute. I also have a desire to encourage young students to pursue careers in science and help contribute because I believe everyone can help and has a part to play!”

With Epps sets to make history on the International Space Station in 2021, as well as potentially becoming the first woman to set foot on the moon, the sky’s the limit for African-American innovations in STEM from earth and beyond.

 

How Business Can Engage Students And Educators With Technology
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If training the future workforce is a fundamental role of education, it’s just as important a role for business.

How can we get young people excited about developing technology skills? Parents sit with their children to read them books from a young age, but when kids hand over their iPads, parents often walk away knowing their kids will be distracted by the screen for a while. When we teach technology, we need to think about creating more personal connections by sharing stories, sparking imaginations and making learning both fun and real.

That may be easier said than done. Our recent PwC study, conducted in conjunction with the Business-Higher Education Forum, found that while educators strongly support teaching technology, very few — just 10 percent — feel confident doing so. More often than not, classroom lessons in technology are passive: watching videos instead of making them, or browsing websites instead of creating them.

Read the full article at HuffPost. 

The Cyberwar Needs More Women on the Front Lines
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CYBERCRIMINALS, LIKE VIRUSES, adapt to their environment. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, cybersecurity complaints to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center have quadrupled.

Not only are governments and businesses more exposed, but individuals—stressed from remote work, unemployment, and/or homeschooling—are more susceptible to scams on everything from government assistance checks to online shopping. I’ve been deluged with emails purportedly from Netflix asking me to update my billing information; the sender clearly thinks cabin fever-infected recipients will be so desperate not to lose access to streaming they’ll click without a second thought.

The surge is no accident: Bad actors go where access is easy or where rewards outweigh risks, and the pandemic is ripe for exploitation. But cybercrime was with us long before and it will be with us long after we finally throw away our masks. This is particularly true of cybercrime targeting women and children.

This brings us back to access. Let’s look at the internet of things, for instance. It was developed largely without the input of women in leadership positions. Among the major US tech firms, none have more than 32 percent of women in leadership roles: Amazon 27 percent, Facebook 32 percent, Apple 29 percent, Google 26 percent, and Microsoft 19 percent.

Read the full article at Wired.

 

Harvard University Chemist Receives the Nation’s Highest Honor
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Emily John Waterman headshot smiling

Meet a chemist who is zooming in on microbes in the human body to understand their influence on human lives. Emily Balskus, a Harvard University chemist, has earned the nation’s highest honor for her early career in STEM.

The annual award recognizes researchers age 40 or younger who demonstrate exceptional individual achievements in scientific or engineering research in National Science Foundation-supported fields.

“This year’s scientific pioneer are innovators who are creatively addressing some of the most challenging scientific questions,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “Emily Balskus has opened up novel ways to explore and exploit the chemistry and biology of microbes that live in our bodies and how they are linked to our health. And we’re already seeing the potential impact.

Tapping Our Own Microbiome’s ‘Chemists’

Throughout Balskus’ scientific career, she has worked on scientific problems that excite her most, which began with developing new chemical reactions in the lab as an organic chemistry graduate student to now uncovering new enzymes and molecules from biological systems. “I’m very interested in biological questions, but I always approach these problems with the eyes of a chemist, trying to think very deeply about reactivity and structure,” she explained.

Balskus is most known for integrating chemistry and microbiology to understand how microbes from the gut are linked to human health and disease.

“My work has focused on how microbes perform chemistry – what are the specific catalysts, or enzymes they use to perform chemical transformations linked to health and disease?” she explained.

Balskus and her team have found novel, creative ways to “peek inside” the genome sequences who exist in our gastrointestinal tract to discover chemical reactions and molecules that are implicated in diseases like colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. Her breakthroughs have transformed how other scientists approach this important line of research that has potential important applications in medicine.

“Through receiving this award, I hope I can bring greater attention to microbes and the important roles they play in all aspects of our lives and to how chemistry can help us understand the microbial world as well as our own,” Balskus said. “I also hope that my work highlights the promise of interdisciplinary science and encourages other scientists, especially trainees, to be curious and open to exploring areas of science outside their comfort zones.”

Balskus received her PhD in chemistry and chemical biology from Harvard in 2008.

The Waterman Award will be presented at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., at a later date. In addition to a medal, $1 million will be awarded over five years for research in her chosen field of science.

Source: nsf.gov

Image Credit: Harvard University

Africa Braces for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
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Technological advancements promise to change the world, but the African continent is not yet ready for it, say experts.

Countries in Africa are seeing economic progress and regional integration that could support the spread of transformational technologies such as artificial intelligence or the internet of things. Yet a deep lack in digital skills, coherent leadership, and basic infrastructure could make the continent miss out on a major industrial revolution – this time with dire consequences, experts warn.

                                                                                                                              Image Credit – Tech Central

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by a fusion of the digital, biological, and physical worlds, where artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, 3D printing, the “internet of things,” and advanced wireless technologies see increased development worldwide. This revolution promises to bring about transformative changes that Africa cannot afford to miss, say experts from the Brookings Institution in a new report.

“Failure to recognize and capitalize on Fourth Industrial Revolution opportunities, conversely, will impose considerable risks on African stakeholders,” warns Brookings. “Without attempts to move beyond existing models of innovation, entrepreneurship, and digital growth on the continent, African businesses risk falling further behind, exacerbating the global ‘digital divide’ and lowering their global competitiveness.”

Read the full article on the US News

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service