Early science was dominated by men, whether in China, Greece, India, or the Middle East. From the 16th to 20th centuries it developed largely in Western nations, and continued to be dominated by men — but all that is changing. Science is a worldwide endeavor and ought to be open to anyone — regardless of ethnicity, gender, religious commitment, or any other personal characteristic. Increasingly, all sorts of people from almost every part of the world participate in science, and scientific institutions are working hard to expand the diversity of their community. This diversity is one of the keys to science’s rapid rate of progress. A diverse scientific community embraces a variety of viewpoints and problem-solving approaches that help to balance out biases and lead to more complete understandings of the natural world. Read on to learn about the research of scientists working all over the world.
Julio F. Navarro
Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
(Ph.D.: Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Argentina)
Navarro studies the formation and evolution of galaxies, using computer simulations. Some of his work challenges traditional ideas on how galaxies form. Navarro’s findings suggest that, instead of forming from a ball of dust and gas in isolation, interactions between galaxies may play an important role in their formation.
Steve W. Running
Professor and Director of Numerical Terradynamics Simulation Group, University of Montana, USA
(Ph.D.: Colorado State University, Fort Collins)
Running develops models to study ecosystems, with a special focus on integrating satellite data into these models. An expert on climate change, he was selected as a lead author for the United Nations’ 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, heading the chapter on the North American impacts of climate change. As a contributor, Running shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the IPCC and Al Gore “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”
Staff Scientist, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama and Professor, University of Ulm, Germany
(Ph.D.: University of Tübingen, Germany)
Kalko travels all over the world studying bats in order to understand their diversity. She collects evidence in many different ways — by observing bats in the wild, through field experiments, by comparing species and communities, and by studying museum specimens. Through her research, she has found links between the types of calls a bat uses — which allow bats to “see” in the dark by analyzing the echo — and the habitat it lives in.
Professor, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Nam-Gu Pohang, Gyeong-Buk, Republic of Korea
(Ph.D.: University of Texas at Austin)
Park studies the electrical aspects of chemical reactions: how repeating molecules (called polymers) can conduct electricity, how chemical energy gets converted into electrical energy in batteries, and how to use electrochemistry to safely dispose of environmentally hazardous materials. This work has the potential to help make better batteries, eliminate pollutants in wastewater, and improve chemical detectors, like those that are used for diabetes patients’ blood sugar tests.
Professor of Geophysics, University of Chile
(Ph.D.: University of French Polynesia)
Clouard studies tectonic plates — the masses that comprise the Earth’s surface and glide slowly over our planet’s interior. Her recent studies of Earth’s largest plate — located underneath the Pacific Ocean — suggest that it will break into two plates millions of years from now, and that the same forces that will eventually cause this break could also be a key factor in the formation of several volcanoes found in the central Pacific.
Sergio Henrique Ferreira
Professor, University of Sao Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Brazil
(Ph.D.: University of Sao Paulo)
Ferreira studies how drugs interact with the body on a molecular and cellular level. In the 1960s, he showed how chemicals from the venom of a native Brazilian snake could be used to dilate blood vessels — a discovery that was later used to develop blood pressure medications. He currently works on understanding chronic pain and developing drugs to combat hypersensitivity to pain.
Professor of Zoology, University of Cape Town, South Africa
(Ph.D.: University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)
Chinsamy-Turan studies thin slices of fossilized bone with specialized microscopes in order to learn about extinct animals. Her work on the bones found within fossilized eggs has helped confirm that sauropod dinosaurs — the group that includes Apatosaurus and the largest land animals in history — laid eggs instead of giving birth to live young. Her studies of the evolutionary ancestors of birds suggest that the transition to their current warm-blooded state is a relatively recent evolutionary development.
Fellow at the Department of Nuclear Physics, Australian National University
(Ph.D.: Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay)
Dasgupta performs experiments that smash atoms into one another at extreme speeds — up to 67 million miles per hour! At these speeds, the nuclei of the atoms undergo fusion reactions — the same sort of reactions that occur inside our sun and cause it to release energy. Dasgupta has built super-sensitive detectors to make extremely precise measurements of the products of these collisions. The evidence she’s collecting through her measurements is making physicists rethink how the fusion of heavy nuclei works and is helping them figure out how the world of quantum mechanics fits with our everyday observations.
Professor, Institute of Anthropological Investigation, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
(Ph.D.: University of Paris IV, Sorbonne, France)
Manzanilla studies Teotihuacan, an ancient city in Mexico that houses the third largest pyramid in the world. She has spent years excavating various areas of the city, and also frequently collaborates with chemists, physicists, and geologists in order to gather different sorts of evidence on her archeological site. The evidence uncovered in Teotihuacan has led her to hypothesize that four people ruled the city at a time, rather than the more common single ruler.
Head of the Laboratory of Neurophysiology of Cognitive Processes, Institute of Developmental Physiology, Russian Academy of Education, Moscow, Russia, and Professor, Chair of Psychology and Pedagogical Anthropology, Moscow State Linguistic University
(Ph.D.: Moscow State University)
Machinskaya studies the brain by analyzing the electrical signals it produces. In her research, she places sensors on the scalps of study participants and records the electrical responses of the brain during various tasks, such as retelling a story. Her work has identified differences in neurological function that may contribute to difficulties with paying attention and lead to learning disabilities in some children.
Director of Conservation Sciences for the Jane Goodall Institute in Tanzania
(Ph.D.: University of Colorado)
Kamenya works at Gombe National Park in western Tanzania. By collecting and analyzing fecal and urine samples from wild chimps, he and his collaborators are learning about which chimps are infected with the SIV virus, the precursor to HIV, and how this affects their health. He and his team also conduct field surveys to estimate how many chimpanzees live in different areas, to figure out how humans living nearby affect the chimp population, and to strategize about how to protect them.
Professor of Biological Sciences, Tata Institute for Fundamental Science, Mumbai, India
(Ph.D.: Tata Institute of Fundamental Research)
Mallik studies molecular “motors” — tiny biological molecules that transport materials from one place to another inside cells. Having the right materials in the right place at the right time is essential to many biological processes, such as chromosome segregation during cell division. The most thoroughly studied molecular motor always moves along in a fixed increment, called its step size. Mallik has found evidence that another well-known molecular motor operates differently — it can shorten its step size to produce a greater force than normal. The motor “changes gears,” as cyclists do when they shift gears biking uphill.
Kristala Jones Prather
Professor of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(Ph.D.: University of California, Berkeley)
Prather is developing a strategy for synthesizing commercial compounds — anything from biofuels to prescription drugs — using biological processes rather than chemical reactions. Her plan is to genetically engineer microbes such as E. coli to produce compounds that the bacteria don’t naturally make, turning them into microscopic chemical factories. A successful strategy for biological production of chemicals has the potential to be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than traditional chemical plants.
Professor, Laboratory of Optical Physics, Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Wu studies light and how it interacts with matter. Much of her work focuses on understanding and exploring the quantum nature of light — the idea that light can act like both discrete particles and waves — and the surprising consequences of this. She also studies ways to exploit these special quantum features in practical applications. For example, her work could help make computers faster and keep electronically transmitted information more secure.
Learn how science benefits from the diversity of its participants in our section on the Social side of science.
You can encourage your students to view science as a human endeavor and to recognize the diversity of the scientific community by incorporating examples of scientists in action into your teaching. Find examples by browsing our Science Stories or through projects like the Scientist Spotlights Initiative.