A Spotlight on Pioneering Women in Science Ahead of International Women's Day

Jess Atkinson
Production Associate
February 21, 2024
Green Bioactives Limited Press Release Main Image

On February 11th, we marked the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a tribute to the remarkable strides made by women in scientific fields. As we approach March 8th, the upcoming International Women's Day, dedicated to celebrating women's accomplishments in social, economic, cultural, and political spheres worldwide, we at Green Bioactives find ourselves reflecting on the lasting impact women have made in the scientific community.

In recognition of this, we invited each member of our team to share insights about a woman in STEM who serves as a source of inspiration. We acknowledge and appreciate the invaluable contributions that women continue to make in shaping the landscape of scientific innovation.

Photo of Rita Levi-Montalcini and Emily Naray
Image attribution:

Name: Emily Naray, Production Assistant
Woman in STEM: Rita Levi-Montalcini

The woman that I find inspiring is Rita Levi-Montalcini whose most notable discovery was nerve growth factor. Her determination to get into science as a young woman against others' wishes, the fact that she made a lab in her bedroom whilst in hiding during World War II, and how she became a professor and Nobel Prize winner afterwards is what makes her amazing to me.

Photo of Marie Curie
Image attribution: Wikipedia (Public Domain)

Name: Ala Jazdzyk, Laboratory Assistant
Woman in STEM: Maria Skłodowska-Curie

Maria Skłodowska-Curie (known most famously as Marie Curie) has always been the most inspirational woman for me because she pushed the borders of the existing science. Two Nobel Prizes reflect not only the well-known scientific discoveries in the Physics and Chemistry fields, but above all, her relentless pursuit of knowledge, the power of motivation, and great courage in the face of significant adversity and discrimination. She also proved that it’s possible to have a successful research career and a fulfilling family life at the same time.

Photo of Florence Nightingale and Jess Atkinson
Image attribution: Henry Hering (1814-1893) Public Domain - National Portrait Gallery, London

Name: Jess Atkinson, Production Associate
Woman in STEM: Florence Nightingale

Learning about Florence Nightingale aka 'The Lady with the Lamp' at primary school definitely influenced me to consider a career in STEM. A pioneer for improving hygiene conditions in hospitals, her work during the Crimea War decreased the hospital associated death rate by two-thirds. She was widely considered an authority in patient care and had a passion for sharing her expertise, which she did through: report writing, statistics (Nightingale Rose Diagram), and teaching. In a time when women were not encouraged to pursue their true passions, she remained devoted to her field and achieved great acclaim and respect as a result.

Photo of Lorna Kennedy and a photo of her as a child with her mum

Name: Lorna Kennedy, Senior Analytical Chemist
Woman in STEM: Marie Kennedy

I think the person that inspired me most is my mother, Marie Kennedy. My mum (now retired) was a Dietician specialising in Oral-motor Dysfunction. She set up the Dietetics & Nutrition department in the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC), and was instrumental in developing a multidisciplinary team of nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, speech therapists, dieticians, and other care professionals. Disabled children travelled from all over Ireland to receive excellent care.

My mum promoted the ideas of logic, balance, and consideration of evidence. She encouraged curiosity and was committed to improvement in all aspects of life. Her attitude and achievements motivated me to try to be like her.

Photo showing Gary Loake and Mary-Dell Chilton
Image attribution: Bob Nichols, Flickr – Public Domain

Name: Gary Loake, Chief Scientific Officer
Woman in STEM: Mary-Dell Chilton

Mary-Dell Chilton led collaborative research that produced the world’s first transgenic plants. She has been called the "queen of Agrobacterium" and a founder of plant biotechnology.

While undertaking my PhD at Durham, Scott Chilton, a natural products professor from North Carolina State University joined the lab in Durham on sabbatical leave, to learn more about Agrobacterium. Every Friday lunchtime Scott and I would go to the New Inn pub, just off campus, for a "pie and a pint” as he liked to call it, to celebrate the coming weekend. When in town, Mary-Dell Chilton, the Director of Plant Biotechnology at CIBA-Geigy, and Scott’s wife, became an “honorary member” of the "pie and a pint” team.

When I left Durham for my postdoc in the USA, Scott, now back in North Carolina, invited me to stay with him and Mary-Dell at their home and set up numerous seminars for me at NC State, UNC, ECU, and CIBA-Geigy to talk about my PhD work. I had a truly memorable week staying with Scott and Mary-Dell, who both provided invaluable scientific insights and extremely helpful career guidance both during my stay and for years afterwards. Mary-Dell is a truly inspiring individual and a giant of plant biotechnology.

Photo showing Barbara McClintock and David McElroy
Image attribution: Barbara McClintock (1902-1992) (Smithsonian Original, Public domain)

Name: David McElroy, Chief Executive Officer
Woman in STEM: Barbara McClintock

Barbara McClintock (1902 –1992) was a pioneering maize geneticist who discovered “jumping genes” (also known as mobile genetic elements or transposons) and studied the impacts of their jumping around and knocking out genes on plant phenotypes. McClintock received a PhD in botany from Cornell University in 1927. In 1983 she was awarded the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine. McClintock remains the only woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in that award category.

I met Barbara McClintock in maybe late 1987 or early 1988 (I’m a bit fuzzy on the specifics – ah if only I had remembered to take my GBL-Memory1 tablets) when I was a PhD student at Cornell. At that time, I was renting a flat on the top floor of a house also occupied by Professor Evelyn Fox Keller from MIT who at that time must have been teaching at Cornell.

Prof Fox Keller had written a biography of McClintock published in 1983 called “A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock”. I guess Dr McClintock would have been in her late 80s when we met – but she still seemed petty sprightly for an octogenarian.

Image attribution: In Wikipedia. (Public domain)

Name: Tom Warelow, Senior Process Development Scientist
Woman in STEM: Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake

Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake played a pivotal role in advancing the cause of women's university education. In 1869, she became the first women to enrol in the medical school at the University of Edinburgh. As a prominent figure among the Edinburgh Seven, Jex-Blake fearlessly challenged societal norms. Her accomplishments include becoming Scotland's inaugural practicing female doctor and the founding of the Edinburgh Provident Dispensary for Women and Children, that latter became the Bruntsfield Women’s Hospital (operational from 1885 to 1989).

Jex-Blake's impact transcended Scotland; as she travelled extensively, wrote prolifically, and ardently advocated for gender equality in women’s education. The collective efforts of Jex-Blake and her fellow members of the Edinburgh Seven have left an enduring imprint on the quest for equal opportunities for women in both medicine and education.


There we have it. Six incredible women in science as chosen by our team. Following on from the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11th, we are looking forward to International Woman's Day on March 8th.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is Inspire Inclusion. As their website puts it, “when we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world.”

To learn more about IWD 2024 and their #InspireInclusion theme, visit the International Women’s Day website.

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