Featured Article March 11, 2021

Women's History Month: Celebrating women in science

The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) is proud of the critical role that female scientists play not only in our own organization, but around the world. In honor of their significant contributions and achievements, we are pleased to share examples of female scientists and scientific staff that are an integral component of JAX’s history, who we are today, as well as how we will drive scientific discovery moving forward.

Women's History Month

Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society and has been observed annually in the month of March in the United States since 1987. Women’s History Month originated as a week-long observance, but now is the entire month of March and includes an International Women’s day on March 8th.  

To celebrate, we have highlighted some recent accomplishments by some of the amazing women at JAX that are shaping scientific discovery:

  • JAX's Julia Oh recently received a five-year grant totaling $3,160,515 from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to conduct a pioneering survey of the genetic diversity among S. epidermidis strains.
  • Postbacc Aude Ikuzwe Sindikubwabo was recently accepted to grad school University of Pennsylvania.
  • Jennifer Brockman received a 2020 Sacramento Valley AALAS Award for Technician of the Year.
  • Olga Anczukow-Camarda led a team to investigate alternative splicing function and how defects contribute to disease.
  • JAX/Tufts University Ph.D. student Logan Schwartz received a Kirchstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award from The National Institutes of Health.
  • Sheng Li detailed a new computational analysis package, called epihet, that automatically measures heterogeneity (differences) in cellular epigenetic profiles within tumors.
  • Becker's Healthcare highlighted JAX executive vice president & COO S. Catherine Longley in their list of women in healthcare leadership.

Celebrating the scientific milestones of JAX female scientists

Since its inception more than 90 years ago, female scientists have played a critical role at JAX.

  • When Clarence Cook Little founded the Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory in May 1929, his scientific staff of eight included a woman, Elizabeth Fekete. In 1935, she would conduct the first successful transfer of fertilized ova, and in 1936 she was among the JAX researchers who announced the first link between cancer and viruses in mammals, a key finding for the later understanding of oncogenes and cancer. 
  • Dr. Margaret Dickie and laboratory technician Skippy Lane discovered the obese (ob) mouse in 1950. The first animal model for obesity, the mouse later proved to have a key mutation in the leptin gene, fundamental to the Lasker Award-winning work of Douglas Coleman and Jeffrey Friedman.
  • Today’s NIH-funded Mouse Genome Database, which the entire biomedical research world depends on, started in 1958 with Dr. Margaret Green’s card-file database of mouse linkages and loci.
  • In the 1960s, Dr. Elizabeth Russell pioneered the use of bone marrow transplantation to cure a blood disorder in a mouse.
  • In 1995, Dr. Muriel T. Davisson and her colleagues at JAX and Johns Hopkins University announced the first mouse model that exhibits the learning and behavior deficiencies, as well as the chromosomal defects, found in patients with Down syndrome.
  • JAX Director of Research Barbara Knowles and colleagues reported in 2004 on the genetic events that help orchestrate changes at the earliest stages of life, when mammalian eggs are fertilized and become embryos.
  • Howard Hughes Investigator Susan Ackerman’s groundbreaking work in the genetics of neurodegenerative disease included the 2014 report of a defect in a key component of the cellular machinery that makes proteins, known as transfer RNA or tRNA. 

Celebrating women in science: A historical perspective

By highlighting the achievements of women in science, we are celebrating not only their contributions to research but also recognizing their struggles navigating what was, for many of them, a non-traditional career.