Spring 2020 | 150 years of women


MCB celebrates 150 years of women at Berkeley

By Rachel Henderson

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the UC Regents’ approval of a resolution to admit women to the university on the same terms as men. UC Berkeley is celebrating this important milestone all year long, and MCB is joining in the campus-wide “150 Years of Women at Berkeley” celebration by reflecting on the extraordinary accomplishments of women in our department over the years.

When MCB was established in 1989, 13 women were on the faculty, including Barbara Meyer who is still an MCB faculty member, HHMI Investigator, and scientist with an active lab. Giovanna Ferro-Luzzi Ames, Phyllis Blair, Beth Burnside, and Caroline Kane were also in that first cohort and are currently MCB emeritae professors. Over the years, women in MCB have made numerous groundbreaking contributions to science. Carol Greider and Elizabeth Blackburn were awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the enzyme telomerase (which is involved in cancer and aging) in Blackburn’s lab when Greider was a graduate student in MCB; professors Kathy Collins and Eva Nogales recently determined the structure of human telomerase; professors Rebecca Heald and Georjana Barnes made critical discoveries about how mitosis is regulated; and professor Jennifer Doudna was instrumental in the discovery of the gene-editing system CRISPR-Cas9 — just to name a few.

There are currently 35 women faculty in MCB, and we are excited by the recent addition of new faculty members Andrea Gomez, Samantha Lewis, Ellen Lumpkin, Dipti Nayak, and Alanna Schepartz. We are also proud that over half of our undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs are women, and of our alumnae’s countless achievements in science, medicine, biotech, and other fields. This issue of the MCB Transcript highlights some of the many accomplishments of our female students, faculty, and alumnae — from cutting-edge research to mentoring the next generation of women scientists.

Women students seated at a tea table in the East Hall women's lounge, circa 1900. Photo credit Bancroft Library
To learn more about UC Berkeley's 150 Years of Women celebration, visit the website.

Top portraits (left to right): Phyllis Blair, Andrea Gomez, Kathy Collins, Beth Burnside, Carol Greider, Jennifer Doudna, Barbara Meyer, Eva Nogales, Samantha Lewis, Elizabeth Blackburn, Georjana Barnes, Ellen Lumpkin, Caroline Kane, Alanna Schepartz, Rebecca Heald, Dipti Nayak, Giovanna Ferro-Luzzi Ames. Photo credits: Blair (courtesy UCB Office of Gift Planning); Gomez, Meyer, Lewis, Kane, Schepartz, Nayak (provided by subject); Collins, Burnside, Nogales, Barnes, Heald (courtesy Mark Joseph Hanson Studio); Greider, Blackburn (©The Nobel Foundation, U. Montan); Doudna (courtesy Keegan Houser); Lumpkin (courtesy John Pinderhughes); Ferro-Luzzi Ames (courtesy Children’s Hospital Foundation)



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